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Full text of "The house behind the cedars"

THE LIBRARY OF THE 

UNIVERSITY OF 

NORTH CAROLINA 




THE COLLECTION OF 

NORTH CAROLINIANA 

ENDOWED BY 

JOHN SPRUNT HILL 

CLASS OF 1889 



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This book must not 
be taken from the 
Library building. 




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Digitized by the Internet Archive 

in 2012 with funding from 

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill 



http://archive.org/details/housebehindcedarOOch 



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THE CONJURE WOMAN. i6mo, $1,25. 
THE WIFE OF HIS YOUTH. Illustrated. Crown 
8vo, $1.50. 

HOUGHTON, MIFFLIN & CO. 
Boston and New York. 



THE HOUSE BEHIND 
THE CEDARS 



BY 



CHARLES W. CHESNUTT 




BOSTON AND NEW YORK 

HOUGHTON, MIFFLIN AND COMPANY 

(3Cfoe fttoergibe $«$& <£ambri&3e 

1900 



COPYRIGHT, I9OO, BY CHARLES W. CHESNUTT 
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED 



CONTENTS 



CHAP. 

I. A Stranger from South Carolina 
II. An Evening Visit 

III. The Old Judge .... 

IV. Down the Kiver 

V. The Tournament .... 

VI. The Queen op Love and Beauty 

VII. 'Mm New Surroundings . 

VIII. The Courtship .... 

IX. Doubts and Fears . . 

X. The Dream 

XI. A Letter and A Journey 

XII. TuYON GOES TO PATESVILLE 

XIII. An Injudicious Payment 

XIV. A Loyal Friend .... 
XV. Mine Own People .... 

XVI. The Bottom falls out 

XVII. Two Letters 

XVIII. Under the Old Regime 
XIX. God made us All .... 
XX. Digging up Boots 
XXI. A Gilded Opportunity . 
XXII. Imperative Business 

XXIII. The Guest of Honor 

XXIV. Swing your Partners 

XXV. Balance All 

XXVI. The Schoolhouse in the Woods 
XXVII. An Interesting Acquaintance 
XXVIII. The Lost Knife .... 
XXIX. Plato earns Half a Dollar 

XXX. An Unusual Honor 
XXXI. In Deep Waters .... 
XXXII. The Power of Love . 
XXXIII. A Mule and a Cart 



PAGE 
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124 
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142 
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155 
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189 
. 193 

203 
, 209 

220 
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233 
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244 
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260 
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277 
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•vS- 



THE HOUSE BEHIND THE 
CEDARS 



A STRANGER FROM SOUTH CAROLINA 

Time touches all things with destroying hand ; 
and if he seem now and then to bestow the bloom 
of youth, the sap of spring, it is but a brief mock- 
ery, to be surely and swiftly followed by the wrin- 
kles of old age, the dry leaves and bare branches 
of winter. And yet there are places where Time 
seems to linger lovingly long after youth has de- 
parted, and to which he seems loath to bring the 
evil day. Who has not known some even-tem- 
pered old man or woman who seemed to have 
drunk of the fountain of youth ? Who has not 
seen somewhere an old town that, having long 
since ceased to grow, yet held its own without per- 
ceptible decline? 

Some such trite reflection — as apposite to the 
subject as most random reflections are — passed 
through the mind of a young man who came out 
of the front door of the Patesville Hotel about 
nine o'clock one fine morning in spring, a few years 
after the Civil War, and started down Front Street 



2 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

toward the market-house. Arriving at the town 
late the previous evening, he had been driven up 
from the steamboat in a carriage, from which he 
had been able to distinguish only the shadowy out- 
lines of the houses along the street ; so that this 
morning walk was his first opportunity to see the 
town by daylight. He was dressed in a suit of 
linen duck — the day was warm — a panama straw 
hat, and patent leather shoes. In appearance he 
was tall, dark, with straight, black, lustrous hair, 
and very clean-cut, high-bred features. When he 
paused by the clerk's desk on his way out, to light 
his cigar, the day clerk, who had just come on duty, 
glanced at the register and read the last entry : — 

" ' John "Warwick, Clarence, South Carolina.' 

" One of the South Ca'lina bigbugs, I reckon 
— probably in cotton, or turpentine." The gentle- 
man from South Carolina, walking down the street, 
glanced about him with an eager look, in which 
curiosity and affection were mingled with a touch 
of bitterness;. He saw little that was not familiar, 
or that he had not seen in his dreams a hundred 
times during the past ten years. There had been* 
some changes, it is true> some melancholy changes, 
but scarcely anything by way of addition or im- 
provement to counterbalance them. Here and 
there blackened and dismantled walls marked the 
place where handsome buildings once had stood, for 
Sherman's march to the sea had left its mark upon 
the town. The stores were mostly of brick, two 



A STRANGER FROM SOUTH CAROLINA 3 

stories high, joining one another after the manner 
of cities. Some of the names on the signs were 
familiar ; others, including a number of Jewish 
names, were quite unknown to him. 

A two minutes' walk brought Warwick — the 
name he had registered under, and as we shall call 
him — to the market-house, the central feature of 
Patesville, from both the commercial and the pic- 
turesque points of view. Standing foursquare in 
the heart of the town, at the intersection of the 
two main streets, a " jog " at each street corner 
left around the market-house a little public square, 
which at this hour was well occupied by carts and 
wagons from the country and empty drays await- 
ing hire. Warwick was unable to perceive much 
change in the market-house. Perhaps the surface 
of the red brick, long unpainted, had scaled off a 
little more here and there. There might have been 
a slight accretion of the moss and lichen on the 
shingled roof. But the tall tower, with its four- 
faced clock, rose as majestically and uncompromis- 
ingly as though the land had never been subjugated. 
Was it so irreconcilable, Warwick wondered, as 
still to peal out the curfew bell, which at nine 
o'clock at night had clamorously warned all negroes, 
slave or free, that it was unlawful for them to be 
abroad after that hour, under penalty of imprison- 
ment or whipping ? Was the old constable, whose 
chief business it had been to ring the bell, still 
alive and exercising the functions of his office, and 
had age lessened or increased the number of times 



4 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

that obliging citizens performed this duty for him 
during his temporary absences in the company of 
convivial spirits ? A few moments later, Warwick 
saw a colored policeman in the old constable's 
place — a stronger reminder than even the burned 
buildings that war had left its mark upon the old 
town, with which Time had dealt so tenderly. 

The lower story of the market-house was open 
on all four of its sides to the public square. War- 
wick passed through one of the wide brick arches 
and traversed the building with a leisurely step. 
He looked in vain into the stalls for the butcher 
who had sold fresh meat twice a week, on market 
days, and he felt a genuine thrill of pleasure when 
he recognized the red bandana turban of old 
Aunt Lyddy, the ancient negro woman who had 
sold him gingerbread and fried fish, and told him 
weird tales of witchcraft and conjuration, in the 
old days when, as an idle boy, he had loafed about 
the market-house. He did not speak to her, however, 
or give her any sign of recognition. He threw a 
glance toward a certain corner where steps led to 
the town hall above. On this stairway he had 
once seen a manacled free negro shot while being 
taken upstairs for examination under a criminal 
charge. Warwick recalled vividly how the shot 
had rung out. He could see again the livid look 
of terror on the victim's face, the gathering crowd, 
the resulting confusion. The murderer, he re- 
called, had been tried and sentenced to imprison- 
ment for life, but was pardoned by a merciful 



A STRANGER FROM SOUTH CAROLINA 5 

governor after serving a year of his sentence. As 
Warwick was neither a prophet nor the son of a 
prophet, he could not foresee that, thirty years 
later, even this would seem an excessive punish- 
ment for so slight a misdemeanor. 

Leaving the market-house, Warwick turned to 
the left, and kept on his course until he reached 
the next corner. After another turn to the right, 
a dozen paces brought him in front of a small 
weather-beaten frame building, from which pro- 
jected a wooden sign-board bearing the inscrip- 
tion : — 

ARCHIBALD STRAIGHT, 

LAWYER. 

He turned the knob, but the door was locked. 
Retracing his steps past a vacant lot, the young 
man entered a shop where a colored man was em- 
ployed in varnishing a coffin, which stood on two 
trestles in the middle of the floor. Not at all 
impressed by the melancholy suggestiveness of his 
task, he was whistling a lively air with great gusto. 
Upon Warwick's entrance this effusion came to a 
sudden end, and the coffin-maker assumed an air 
of professional gravity. 

" Good-mawnin', sub," he said, lifting his cap 
politely. 

" Good-morning," answered Warwick. " Can 
you tell me anything about Judge Straight's office 
hours ? " 

" De ole jedge has be'n a little onreg'lar sence 



6 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

de wall, suh ; but lie gin'ally gits roun' 'bout ten 
o'clock er so. He 's be'n kin' er feeble fer de las' 
few yeahs. An' I reckon," continued the under- 
taker solemnly, bis glance unconsciously seeking a 
row of fine caskets standing against the wall, — "I 
reckon he '11 soon be goin' de way er all de earth. 
' Man dat is bawn er 'onian hath but a sho't time 
ter lib, an' is full er mis'ry. He cometh up an' is 
cut down lack as a flower.' ' De days er his life 
is three-sco' an' ten ' — an' de ole jedge is libbed 
mo' d'n dat, suh, by five yeahs, ter say de leas'." 

" ' Death,' " quoted Warwick, with whose mood 
the undertaker's remarks were in tune, '"is the 
penalty that all must pay for the crime of 
living.' " 

" Dat 's a fac', suh, dat 's a fac' ; so dey mus' — 
so dey mus'. An' den all de dead has ter be buried. 
An' we does ou' sheer of it, suh, we does ou' sheer. 
We conduc's de obs'quies er all de bes' w'ite folks 
er de town, suh." 

Warwick left the undertaker's shop and re- 
traced his steps until he had passed the lawyer's 
office, toward which he threw an affectionate glance. 
A few rods farther led him past the old brick Pres- 
byterian church, with its square tower, embowered 
in a stately grove ; past the Catholic church, with 
its many crosses, and a painted wooden figure of 
St. James in a recess beneath the gable ; and past 
the old Jefferson House, once the leading hotel of 
the town, in front of which political meetings had 
been held, and political speeches made, and polit- 



A STRANGER FROM SOUTH CAROLINA 7 

ical hard cider drunk, in the days of " Tippecanoe 
and Tyler too." 

The street down which Warwick had come in- 
tersected Front Street at a sharp angle in front of 
the old hotel, forming a sort of flatiron block at 
the junction, known as Liberty Point, — perhaps 
because slave auctions were sometimes held there in 
the good old days. Just before Warwick reached 
Liberty Point, a young woman came down Front 
Street from the direction of the market-house. 
When their paths converged, Warwick kept on 
down Front Street behind her, it having been 
already his intention to walk in this direction. 

Warwick's first glance had revealed the fact 
that the young woman was strikingly handsome, 
with a stately beauty seldom encountered. As he 
walked along behind her at a measured distance, 
he could not help noting the details that made 
up this pleasing impression, for his mind was sin- 
gularly alive to beauty, in whatever embodiment. 
The girl's figure, he perceived, was admirably 
proportioned ; she was evidently at the period 
when the angles of childhood were rounding into 
the promising curves of adolescence. Her abun- 
dant hair, of a dark and glossy brown, was neatly 
plaited and coiled above an ivory column that rose 
straight from a pair of gently sloping shoulders, 
clearly outlined beneath the light muslin frock 
that covered them. He could see that she was 
tastefully, though not richly, dressed, and that she 
walked with an elastic step that revealed a light 



8 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

heart and the vigor of perfect health. Her face, 
of course, he could not analyze, since he had 
caught only the one brief but convincing glimpse 
of it. 

The young woman kept on down Front Street, 
Warwick maintaining his distance a few rods 
behind her. They passed a factory, a warehouse 
or two, and then, leaving the brick pavement, 
walked along on mother earth, under a leafy 
arcade of spreading oaks and elms. Their way 
led now through a residential portion of the 
town, which, as they advanced, gradually declined 
from staid respectability to poverty, open and un- 
abashed. Warwick observed, as they passed 
through the respectable quarter, that few people 
who met the girl greeted her, and that some others 
whom she passed at gates or doorways gave her 
no sign of recognition ; from which he inferred 
that she was possibly a visitor in the town and not 
well acquainted. 

Their walk had continued not more than ten 
minutes when they crossed a creek by a wooden 
bridge and came to a row of mean houses standing 
flush with the street. At the door of one, an old 
black woman had stooped to lift a large basket, 
piled high with laundered clothes. The girl, as 
she passed, seized one end of the basket and helped 
the old woman to raise it to her head, where it 
rested solidly on the cushion of her head-kerchief. 
During this interlude, Warwick, though he had 
slackened his pace measurably, had so nearly 



A STRANGER FROM SOUTH CAROLINA 9 

closed tlie gap between himself and them as to 
hear the old woman say, with the dulcet negro 
intonation : — 

" T'ank y', honey ; de Lawd gwine bless you 
sho'. You wuz alluz a good gal, and de Lawd 
love eve'ybody w'at he'p de po' ole nigger. You 
gwine ter hab good luck all yo' bawn days." 

"I hope you're a true prophet, Aunt Zilphy," 
laughed the girl in response. 

The sound of her voice gave Warwick a thrill. 
It was soft and sweet and clear — quite in har- 
mony with her appearance. That it had a faint 
suggestiveness of the old woman's accent he 
hardly noticed, for the current Southern speech, 
including his own, was rarely without a touch of it. 
The corruption of the white people's speech was 
one element — only one — of the negro's uncon- 
scious revenge for his own debasement. 

The houses they passed now grew scattering, 
and the quarter of the town more neglected. 
Warwick felt himself wondering where the girl 
might be going in a neighborhood so uninviting. 
When she stopped to pull a half-naked negro 
child out of a mudhole and set him upon his feet, 
he thought she might be some young lady from the 
upper part of the town, bound on some errand of 
mercy, or going, perhaps, to visit an old servant or 
look for a new one. Once she threw a backward 
glance at Warwick, thus enabling him to catch a 
second glimpse of a singularly pretty face. Per- 
haps the young woman found his presence in the 



10 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

neighborhood as unaccountable as he had deemed 
hers ; for, finding his glance fixed upon her, she 
quickened her pace with an air of startled timid- 
ity. 

" A woman with such a figure," thought War- 
wick, " ought to be able to face the world with the 
confidence of Phryne confronting her judges." 

By this time Warwick was conscious that some- 
thing more than mere grace or beauty had at- 
tracted him with increasing force toward this 
young woman. A suggestion, at first faint and 
elusive, of something familiar, had grown stronger 
when he heard her voice, and became more and 
more pronounced with each rod of their advance ; 
and when she stopped finally before a gate, and, 
opening it, went into a yard shut off from the 
street by a row of dwarf cedars, Warwick had al- 
ready discounted in some measure the surprise he 
would have felt at seeing her enter there had he 
not walked down Front Street behind her. There 
was still sufficient unexpectedness about the act, 
however, to give him a decided thrill of pleasure. 

" It must be Rena," he murmured. " Who 
could have dreamed that she would blossom out 
like that ? It must surely be Rena ! " 

He walked slowly past the gate and peered 
through a narrow gap in the cedar hedge. The 
girl was moving along a sanded walk, toward a 
gray, unpainted house, with a steep roof, broken 
by dormer windows. The trace of timidity he had 



A STRANGER FROM SOUTH CAROLINA 11 

observed in her had given place to the more assured 
bearing of one who is upon his own ground. The 
garden walks were bordered by long rows of jon- 
quils, pinks, and carnations, inclosing clumps of 
fragrant shrubs, lilies, and roses already in bloom. 
Toward the middle of the garden stood two fine 
magnolia-trees, with heavy, dark green, glistening 
leaves, while nearer the house two mighty elms 
shaded a wide piazza, at one end of which a honey- 
suckle vine, and at the other a Virginia creeper, 
running over a wooden lattice, furnished addi- 
tional shade and seclusion. On dark or wintry 
days, the aspect of this garden must have been 
extremely sombre and depressing, and it might 
well have seemed a fit place to hide some guilty or 
disgraceful secret. But on the bright morning 
when Warwick stood looking through the cedars, 
it seemed, with its green frame and canopy and its 
bright carpet of flowers, an ideal retreat from the 
fierce sunshine and the sultry heat of the approach- 
ing summer. 

The girl stooped to pluck a rose, and as she 
bent over it, her profile was clearly outlined. She 
held the flower to her face with a long-drawn in- 
halation, then went up the steps, crossed the piazza, 
opened the door without knocking, and entered 
the house with the air of one thoroughly at home. 

" Yes," said the young man to himself, " it 's 
Rena, sure enough." 

The house stood on a corner, around which the 
cedar hedge turned, continuing along the side of 



12 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

the garden until it reached the line of the front of 
the house. The piazza to a rear wing, at right 
angles to the front of the house, was open to inspec- 
tion from the side street, which, to judge from its 
deserted look, seemed to be but little used. Turn- 
ing into this street and walking leisurely past the 
back yard, which was only slightly screened from 
the street by a china-tree, Warwick perceived the 
young woman standing on the piazza, facing an 
elderly woman, who sat in a large rocking-chair, 
plying a pair of knitting-needles on a half-finished 
stocking. Warwick's walk led him within three 
feet of the side gate, which he felt an almost irre- 
sistible impulse to enter. Every detail of the 
house and garden was familiar ; a thousand cords 
of memory and affection drew him thither; but a 
stronger counter-motive prevailed. With a great 
effort he restrained himself, and after a momentary 
pause, walked slowly on past the house, with a 
backward glance, which he turned away when he 
saw that it was observed. 

Warwick's attention had been so fully absorbed 
by the house behind the cedars and the women 
there, that he had scarcely noticed, on the other 
side of the neglected by-street, two men working 
by a large open window, in a low, rude building 
with a clapboarded roof, directly opposite the back 
piazza occupied by the two women. Both the men 
were busily engaged in shaping barrel-staves, each 
wielding a sharp-edged drawing-knife on a piece of 
seasoned oak clasped tightly in a wooden vise. 



A STRANGER FROM SOUTH CAROLINA 13 

" I jes' wonder who dat man is, an' w'at lie 's 
doin' on dis street," observed the younger of the 
two, with a suspicious air. He had noticed the 
gentleman's involuntary pause and his interest in 
the opposite house, and had stopped work for a 
moment to watch the stranger as he went on down 
the street. 

" Nev' min' 'bout dat man," said the elder one. 
" You 'ten' ter yo' wuk an' finish dat bairl-stave. 
You spen's enti'ely too much er yo' time stretchin' 
yo' neck atter other people. An' you need n' 'sturb 
yo'se'f 'bout dem folks 'cross de street, fer dey 
ain't yo' kin', an' you 're wastin' yo' time both'in' 
yo' min' wid 'em, er wid folks w'at comes on de 
street on account of 'em. Look sha'p now, boy, er 
you '11 git dat stave trim' too much." 

The younger man resumed his work, but still 
found time to throw a slanting glance out of the 
window. The gentleman, he perceived, stood for 
a moment on the rotting bridge across the old 
canal, and then walked slowly ahead until he 
turned to the right into Back Street, a few rods 
farther on. 



II 

AN EVENING VISIT 

Towaed evening of the same day, Warwick took 
his way down Front Street in the gathering dusk. 
By the time night had spread its mantle over the 
earth, he had reached the gate by which he had 
seen the girl of his morning walk enter the cedar- 
bordered garden. He stopped at the gate and 
glanced toward the house, which seemed dark and 
silent and deserted. 

" It 's more than likely," he thought, " that they 
are in the kitchen. I reckon I 'd better try the 
back door." 

But as he drew cautiously near the corner, he 
saw a man's figure outlined in the yellow light 
streaming from the open door of a small house be- 
tween Front Street and the cooper shop. Wish- 
ing, for reasons of his own, to avoid observation, 
Warwick did not turn the corner, but walked on 
down Front Street until he reached a point from 
which he could see, at a long angle, a ray of light 
proceeding from the kitchen window of the house 
behind the cedars. 

" They are there," he muttered with a sigh of 
relief, for he had feared they might be away. " I 
suspect I '11 have to go to the front door, after all. 
No one can see me through the trees." 



AN EVENING VISIT 15 

He retraced his steps to the front gate, which 
he essayed to open. There was apparently some 
defect in the latch, for it refused to work. War- 
wick remembered the trick, and with a slight sense 
of amusement, pushed his foot under the gate and 
gave it a hitch to the left, after which it opened 
readily enough. He walked softly up the sanded 
path, tiptoed up the steps and across the piazza, 
and rapped at the front door, not too loudly, lest 
this too might attract the attention of the man 
across the street. There was no response to his 
rap. He put his ear to the door and heard voices 
within, and the muffled sound of footsteps. After 
a moment he rapped again, a little louder than 
before. 

There was an instant cessation of the sounds 
within. He rapped a third time, to satisfy any 
lingering doubt in the minds of those who he felt 
sure were listening in some trepidation. A mo- 
ment later a ray of light streamed through the 
keyhole. 

"Who's there?" a woman's voice inquired 
somewhat sharply. 

" A gentleman," answered Warwick, not hold- 
ing it yet time to reveal himself. " Does Mis' 
Molly Walden live here ? " 

" Yes," was the guarded answer. " I 'm Mis' 
Walden. What 's yo'r business ? " 

" I have a message to you from your son 
John." 

A key clicked in the lock. The door opened, 



16 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

and the elder of the two women Warwick had 
seen upon the piazza stood in the doorway, peering 
curiously and with signs of great excitement into 
the face of the stranger. 

" You 've got a message from my son, you say ? " 
she asked with tremulous agitation. " Is he sick, 
or in trouble ? " 

" No. He 's well and doing well, and sends 
his love to you, and hopes you 've not forgotten 
him." 

"Fergot him? No, God knows I ain't f ergot 
him ! But come in, sir, an' tell me somethin' 
mo' about him." 

Warwick went in, and as the woman closed the 
door after him, he threw a glance round the room. 
On the wall, over the mantelpiece, hung a steel 
en^ravino; of General Jackson at the battle of 
New Orleans, and, on the opposite wall, a framed 
fashion-plate from " Godey's Lady's Book." In 
the middle of the room an octagonal centre-table 
with a single leg, terminating in three sprawling 
feet, held a collection of curiously shaped sea-shells. 
There was a great haircloth sofa, somewhat the 
worse for wear, and a well-filled bookcase. The 
screen standing before the fireplace was covered 
with Confederate bank-notes of various denomi- 
nations and designs, in which the heads of Jeffer- 
son Davis and other Confederate leaders were 
conspicuous. 

" Imperious Caesar, dead, and turned to clay, 
Might stop a hole to keep the wind away," 



AN EVENING VISIT 17 

murmured the young man, as his eye fell upon this 
specimen of decorative art. 

The woman showed her visitor to a seat. She 
then sat down facing him and looked at him closely. 
" When did you last see my son ? " she asked. 

" I 've never met your sou," he replied. 

Her face fell. " Then the message comes 
through you from somebody else ? " 

" No, directly from your son." 

She scanned his face with a puzzled look. This 
bearded young gentleman, who spoke so politely 
and was dressed so well, surely — no, it could 
not be ! and yet — 

Warwick was smiling at her through a mist of 
tears. An electric spark of sympathy flashed 
between them. They rose as if moved by one 
impulse, and were clasped in each other's arms. 

" John, my John ! It is John ! " 

" Mother — my dear old mother ! " 

" I did n't think," she sobbed, " that I 'd ever 
see you again." 

He smoothed her hair and kissed her. " And 
are you glad to see me, mother ? " 

" Am I glad to see you ? It 's like the dead 
comin' to life. I thought I 'd lost you forever, 
John, my son, my darlin' boy! " she answered, 
hugging him strenuously. 

"I couldn't live without seeing you, mother," 
he said. He meant it, too, or thought he did, 
although he had not seen her for ten years. 

" You 've grown so tall, John, and are such a 



18 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

fine gentleman ! And you are a gentleman now, 
John, ain't you — sure enough ? Nobody knows 
the old story ? " 

" Well, mother, I 've taken a man's chance in 
life, and have tried to make the most of it ; and 
I have n't felt under any obligation to spoil it 
by raking up old stories that are best forgotten. 
There are the dear old books : have they been 
read since I went away ? " 

" No, honey, there 's be'n nobody to read 'em, 
excep' Rena, an' she don't take to books quite like 
you did. But I 've kep' 'em dusted clean, an' kep' 
the moths an' the bugs out ; for I hoped you 'd 
come back some day, an' knowed you 'd like to find 
'em all in their places, jus' like you left 'em." 

" That 's mighty nice of you, mother. You 
could have done no more if you had loved them 
for themselves. But where is Rena ? I saw her 
on the street to-day, but she did n't know me from 
Adam ; nor did I guess it was she until she opened 
the gate and came into the yard." 

" I ' ve be'n so glad to see you that I 'd f ergot about 
her," answered the mother. " Rena, oh, Rena ! " 

The girl was not far away ; she had been stand- 
ing in the next room, listening intently to every 
word of the conversation, and only kept from 
coming in by a certain constraint that made a 
brother whom she had not met for so many years 
seem almost as much a stranger as if he had not 
been connected with her by any tie. 

" Yes, mamma," she answered, coming forward. 



AN EVENING VISIT 19 

" Eena, child, here 's yo'r brother John, who 's 
come back to see us. Tell 'im howdy." 

As she came forward, Warwick rose, put his 
arm around her waist, drew her toward him, and 
kissed her affectionately, to her evident embarrass- 
ment. She was a tall girl, but he towered above 
her in quite a protecting fashion ; and she thought 
with a thrill how fine it would be to have such a 
brother as this in the town all the time. How 
proud she would be, if she could but walk up the 
street with such a brother by her side ! She 
could then hold up her head before all the world, 
oblivious to the glance of pity or contempt. She 
felt a very pronounced respect for this tall gen- 
tleman who held her blushing face between his 
hands and looked steadily into her eyes. 

" You 're the little sister I used to read stories 
to, and whom I promised to come and see some 
day. Do you remember how you cried when I 
went away ? " 

" It seems but yesterday," she answered. " I 've 
still got the dime you gave me." 

He kissed her again, and then drew her down 
beside him on the sofa, where he sat enthroned 
between the two loving and excited women. No 
king could have received more sincere or delighted 
homage. He was a man, come into a household 
of women, — a man of whom they were proud, and 
to whom they looked up with fond reverence. 
For he was not only a son, — a brother — but he 
represented to them the world from which circum- 



20 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

stances had shut them out, and to which distance 
lent even more than its usual enchantment ; and 
they felt nearer to this far-off world because of the 
glory which Warwick reflected from it. 

" You 're a very pretty girl," said Warwick, 
regarding his sister thoughtfully. " I followed 
you down Front Street this morning, and scarcely 
took my eyes off you all the way ; and yet I 
didn't know you, and scarcely saw your face. 
You improve on acquaintance ; to-night, I find you 
handsomer still." 

" Now, John," said his mother, expostulating 
mildly, " you'll spile her, if you don't min'." 

The girl was beaming with gratified vanity. 
What woman would not find such praise sweet 
from almost any source, and how much more so 
from this great man, who, from his exalted station 
in the world, must surely know the things whereof 
he spoke ! She believed every word of it ; she 
knew it very well indeed, but wished to hear it 
repeated and itemized and emphasized. 

" No, he won't, mamma," she asserted, " for 
he 's flattering me. He talks as if I was some 
rich young lady, who lives on the Hill," — the 
Hill was the aristocratic portion of the town, — 
" instead of a poor " — 

" Instead of a poor young girl, who has the hill 
to climb," replied her brother, smoothing her hair 
with his hand. Her hair was long and smooth 
and glossy, with a wave like the ripple of a sum- 
mer breeze upon the surface of still water. It 



AN EVENING VISIT 21 

was the girl's great pride, and had been sedu- 
lously cared for. " What lovely hair ! It has 
just the wave that yours lacks, mother." 

" Yes," was the regretful reply, " I 've never 
be'n able to git that wave out. But her hair 's 
be'n took good care of, an' there ain't nary gal in 
town that 's got any finer." 

" Don't worry about the wave, mother. It 's 
just the fashionable ripple, and becomes her im- 
mensely. I think my little Albert favors his 
Aunt Bena somewhat." 

" Your little Albert ! " they cried. " You 've 
got a child ? " 

" Oh, yes," he replied calmly, " a very fine baby 
boy." 

They began to purr in proud contentment at 
this information, and made minute inquiries about 
the age and weight and eyes and nose and other 
important details of this precious infant. They 
inquired more coldly about the child's mother, 
of whom they spoke with greater warmth when 
they learned that she was dead. They hung 
breathless on Warwick's words as he related 
briefly the story of his life since he had left, years 
before, the house behind the cedars — how with a 
stout heart and an abounding hope he had gone 
out into a seemingly hostile world, and made for- 
tune stand and deliver. His story had for the 
women the charm of an escape from captivity, 
with all the thrill of a pirate's tale. With the 
whole world before him, he had remained in the 



22 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

South, the land of his fathers, where, he con- 
ceived, he had an inalienable birthright. By some 
good chance he had escaped military service in 
the Confederate army, and, in default of older 
and more experienced men, had undertaken, during 
the rebellion, the management of a large estate, 
which had been left in the hands of women and 
slaves. He had filled the place so acceptably, and 
employed his leisure to such advantage, that at the 
close of the war he found himself — he was mod- 
est enough to think, too, in default of a better 
man — the husband of the orphan daughter of the 
gentleman who had owned the plantation, and who 
had lost his life upon the battlefield. Warwick's 
wife was of good family, and in a more settled 
condition of society it would not have been easy 
for a young man of no visible antecedents to win 
her hand. A year or two later, he had taken the 
oath of allegiance, and had been admitted to the 
South Carolina bar. Rich in his wife's right, he 
had been able to practice his profession upon a 
high plane, without the worry of sordid cares, and 
with marked success for one of his age. 

" I suppose," he concluded, " that I have got 
along at the bar, as elsewhere, owing to the lack of 
better men. Many of the good lawyers were killed 
in the war, and most of the remainder were dis- 
qualified ; while I had the advantage of being alive, 
and of never having been in arms against the gov- 
ernment. People had to have lawyers, and they 
gave me their business in preference to the carpet- 



AN EVENING VISIT 23 

baggers. Fortune, you know, favors the available 
man." 

His mother drank in with parted lips and glis- 
tening eyes the story of his adventures and the 
record of his successes. As Rena listened, the 
narrow walls that hemmed her in seemed to draw 
closer and closer, as though they must crush her. 
Her brother watched her keenly. He had been 
talking not only to inform the women, but with 
a deeper purpose, conceived since his morning 
walk, and deepened as he had followed, during his 
narrative, the changing expression of Rena's face 
and noted her intense interest in his story, her 
pride in his successes, and the occasional wistful 
look that indexed her self-pity so completely. 

" An' I s'pose you 're happy, John? " asked his 
mother. 

" Well, mother, happiness is a relative term, 
and depends, I imagine, upon how nearly we think 
we get what we think we want. I have had my 
chance and haven't thrown it away, and I suppose 
I ought to be happy. But then, I have lost my 
wife, whom I loved very dearly, and who loved me 
just as much, and I 'm troubled about my child." 

" Why ? " they demanded. " Is there anything 
the matter with him ? " 

" No, not exactly. He 's well enough, as babies 
go, and has a good enough nurse, as nurses go. 
But the nurse is ignorant, and not always careful. 
A child needs some woman of its own blood to love 
it and look after it intelligently." 



24 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

Mis' Molly's eyes were filled with tearful yearn- 
ing. She would have given all the world to warm 
her son's child upon her bosom ; hut she knew 
this could not be. 

" Did your wife leave any kin ? " she asked with 
an effort. 

" No near kin ; she was an only child." 

" You '11 be gettin' married again," suggested 
his mother. 

" No," he replied ; " I think not." 

Warwick was still reading his sister's face, and 
saw the spark of hope that gleamed in her express- 
ive eye. 

" If I had some relation of my own that I could 
take into the house with me," he said reflectively, 
" the child might be healthier and happier, and I 
should be much more at ease about him." 

The mother looked from son to daughter with a 
dawning apprehension and a sudden pallor. When 
she saw the yearning in Rena's eyes, she threw her- 
self at her son's feet. 

" Oh, John," she cried despairingly, " don't take 
her away from me ! Don't take her, John, darlin', 
for it 'd break my heart to lose her ! " 

Rena's arms were round her mother's neck, and 
Rena's voice was sounding in her ears. " There, 
there, mamma ! Never mind ! I won't leave you, 
mamma — dear old mamma ! Your Rena '11 stay 
with you always, and never, never leave you." 

John smoothed his mother's hair with a com- 
forting touch, patted her withered cheek sooth- 



AN EVENING VISIT 25 

ingly, lifted her tenderly to her place by his side, 
and put his arm about her. 

" You love your children, mother ? " 

" They 're all I 've got," she sobbed, " an' they 
cos' me all I had. When the las' one 's gone, I '11 
want to go too, for I '11 be all alone in the world. 
Don't take Rena, John ; for if you do, I '11 never 
see her again, an' I can't bear to think of it. How 
would you like to lose yo'r one child ? " 

" Well, well, mother, we '11 say no more about 
it. And now tell me all about yourself, and about 
the neighbors, and how you got through the war, 
and who 's dead and who 's married — and every- 
thing." 

The change of subject restored in some de- 
gree Mis' Molly's equanimity, and with returning 
calmness came a sense of other responsibilities. 

" Grood gracious, Rena ! " she exclaimed. 
" John 's be'n in the house an hour, and ain't had 
nothin' to eat yet ! Go in the kitchen an' spread 
a clean tablecloth, an' git out that 'tater pone, an' 
a pitcher o' that las' kag o' persimmon beer, an' 
let John take a bite an' a sip." 

Warwick smiled at the mention of these homely 
dainties. " I thought of your sweet-potato pone 
at the hotel to-day, when I was at dinner, and 
wondered if you 'd have some in the house. There 
was never any like yours ; and I 've forgotten the 
taste of persimmon beer entirely." 

Rena left the room to carry out her hospitable 
commission. Warwick, taking advantage of her 



26 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

absence, returned after a while to the former 
subject. 

" Of course, mother," he said calmly, " I 
wouldn't think of taking Rena away against your 
wishes. A mother's claim upon her child is a high 
and holy one. Of course she will have no chance 
here, where our story is known. The war has 
wrought great changes, has put the bottom rail on 
top, and all that — but it has n't wiped that out. 
Nothing but death can remove that stain, if it does 
not follow us even beyond the grave. Here she 
must forever be — nobody ! With me she might 
have got out into the world ; with her beauty she 
might have made a good marriage ; and, if I mis- 
take not, she has sense as well as beauty." 

" Yes," sighed the mother, " she 's got good 
sense. She ain't as quick as you was, an' don't 
read as many books, but she 's keerful an' pains- 
taking an' always tries to do what 's right. She 's 
be'n thinkin' about goin' away somewhere an' 
tryin' to git a school to teach, er somethin', sence 
the Yankees have started 'em everywhere for po' 
white folks an' niggers too. But I don't like fer 
her to go too fur." 

" With such beauty and brains," continued 
Warwick, "she could leave this town and make 
a place for herself. The place is already made. 
She has only to step into my carriage — after per- 
haps a little preparation — and ride up the hill 
which I have had to climb so painfully. It would 
be a great pleasure to me to see her at the top. 



AN EVENING VISIT 27 

But of course it is impossible — a mere idle dream. 
Four claim comes first ; her duty chains her 
here." 

" It would be so lonely without her," murmured 
the mother weakly, " an' I love her so — my las' 
one ! " 

" No doubt — no doubt," returned Warwick, 
with a sympathetic sigh ; " of course you love her. 
It 's not to be thought of for a moment. It 's a 
pity that she could n't have a chance here — but 
how could she ? I had thought she might marry 
a gentleman ; but I dare say she '11 do as well as 
the rest of her friends — as well as Mary B., for 
instance, who married — Homer Pettifoot, did you 
say ? Or maybe Billy Oxendine might do for her. 
As long as she has never known any better, she '11 
probably be as well satisfied as though she married 
a rich man, and lived in a fine house, and kept a 
carriage and servants, and moved with the best in 
the land." 

The tortured mother could endure no more. 
The one thing she desired above all others was her 
daughter's happiness. Her own life had not been 
governed by the highest standards, but about her 
love for her beautiful daughter there was no taint 
of selfishness. The life her son had described had 
been to her always the ideal but unattainable life. 
Circumstances, some beyond her control, and others 
for which she was herself in a measure responsible, 
had put it forever and inconceivably beyond her 
reach. It had been conquered by her son. It 



28 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

beckoned to her daughter. The comparison of this 
free and noble life with the sordid existence of 
those around her broke down the last barrier of 
opposition. 

" O Lord ! " she moaned, " what shall I do with- 
out her ? It '11 be lonely, John — so lonely ! " 

" You '11 have your home, mother," said War- 
wick tenderly, accepting the implied surrender. 
" You '11 have your friends and relatives, and the 
knowledge that your children are happy. I '11 let 
you hear from us often, and no doubt you can see 
Rena now and then. But you must let her go, 
mother, — it would be a sin against her to refuse." 

" She may go," replied the mother brokenly. 
" I '11 not stand in her way — I 've got sins enough 
to answer for already." 

Warwick watched her pityingly. He had stirred 
her feelings to unwonted depths, and his sympathy 
went out to her. If she had sinned, she had been 
more sinned against than sinning, and it was not 
his part to judge her. He had yielded to a senti- 
mental weakness in deciding upon this trip to 
Patesville. A matter of business had brought him 
within a day's journey of the town, and an over- 
mastering impulse had compelled him to seek the 
mother who had given him birth and the old town 
where he had spent the earlier years of his life. 
No one would have acknowledged sooner than he 
the folly of this visit. Men who have elected to 
govern their lives by principles of abstract right 
and reason, which happen, perhaps, to be at vari- 



AN EVENING VISIT 29 

ance with what society considers equally right and 
reasonable, should, for fear of complications, be 
careful about descending from the lofty heights of 
logic to the common level of impulse and affection. 
Many years before, Warwick, when a lad of eigh- 
teen, had shaken the dust of the town from his feet, 
and with it, he fondly thought, the blight of his 
inheritance, and had achieved elsewhere a worthy 
career. But during all these years of absence he 
had cherished a tender feeling for his mother, and 
now again found himself in her house, amid the 
familiar surroundings of his childhood. His visit 
had brought joy to his mother's heart, and was 
now to bring its shrouded companion, sorrow. His 
mother had lived her life, for good or ill. A wider 
door was open to his sister — her mother must not 
bar the entrance. 

" She may go," the mother repeated sadly, dry- 
ing her tears. " I '11 give her up for her good." 

" The table 's ready, mamma," said Rena, coming 
to the door. 

The lunch was spread in the kitchen, a large un- 
plastered room at the rear, with a wide fireplace at 
one end. Only yesterday, it seemed to Warwick, 
he had sprawled upon the hearth, turning sweet 
potatoes before the fire, or roasting groundpeas in 
the ashes ; or, more often, reading, by the light of 
a blazing pine-knot or lump of resin, some volume 
from the bookcase in the hall. From Bulwer's 
novel, he had read the story of Warwick the 
Kingmaker, and upon leaving home had chosen it 



30 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

for his own. He was a new man, but he had the 
blood of an old race, and he would select for his 
own one of its worthy names. Overhead loomed 
the same smoky beams, decorated with what might 
have been, from all appearances, the same bunches 
of dried herbs, the same strings of onions and red 
peppers. Over in the same corner stood the same 
spinning-wheel, and through the open door of an 
adjoining room he saw the old loom, where in 
childhood he had more than once thrown the shut- 
tle. The kitchen was different from the stately 
dining-room of the old colonial mansion where he 
now lived ; but it was homelike, and it was familiar. 
The sight of it moved his heart, and he felt for 
the moment a sort of a blind anger against the 
fate which made it necessary that he should visit 
the home of his childhood, if at all, like a thief 
in the night. But he realized, after a moment, 
that the thought was pure sentiment, and that one 
who had gained so much ought not to complain if 
he must give up a little. He who would climb 
the heights of life must leave even the pleasantest 
valleys behind. 

" Rena," asked her mother, " how 'd you like to 
go an' pay yo'r brother John a visit ? I guess I 
might spare you for a little while." 

The girl's eyes lighted up. She would not have 
gone if her mother had wished her to stay, but she 
would always have regarded this as the lost oppor- 
tunity of her life. 

" Are you sure you don't care, mamma ? " she 
asked, hoping and yet doubting. 



AN EVENING VISIT 31 

" Oh, I '11 manage to git along somehow or other. 
You can go an' stay till you git homesick, an' then 
John '11 let you come back home." 

But Mis' Molly believed that she would never 
come back, except, like her brother, under cover of 
the night. She must lose her daughter as well as 
her son, and this should be the penance for her sin. 
That her children must expiate as well the sins of 
their fathers, who had sinned so lightly, after the 
manner of men, neither she nor they could foresee, 
since they could not read the future. 

The next boat by which Warwick could take his 
sister away left early in the morning of the next 
day but one. He went back to his hotel with the 
understanding that the morrow should be devoted 
to getting Rena ready for her departure, and that 
Warwick would visit the household again the fol- 
lowing evening ; for, as has been intimated, there 
were several reasons why there should be no open 
relations between the fine gentleman at the hotel 
and the women in the house behind the cedars, who, 
while superior in blood and breeding to the people 
of the neighborhood in which they lived, were yet 
under the shadow of some cloud which clearly shut 
them out from the better society of the town. Al- 
most any resident could have given one or more of 
these reasons, of which any one would have been 
sufficient to most of them ; and to some of them 
Warwick's mere presence in the town would have 
seemed a bold and darins; thine:. 



Ill 

THE OLD JUDGE 

On the morning following the visit to his 
mother, Warwick visited the old judge's office. 
The judge was not in, but the door stood open, 
and Warwick entered to await his return. There 
had been fewer changes in the office, where he had 
spent many, many hours, than in the town itself. 
The dust was a little thicker, the papers in the 
pigeon-holes of the walnut desk were a little yel- 
lower, the cobwebs in the corners a little more 
aggressive. The flies droned as drowsily and the 
murmur of the brook below was just as audible. 
Warwick stood at the rear window and looked out 
over a familiar view. Directly across the creek, on 
the low ground beyond, might be seen the dilapi- 
dated stone foundation of the house where once 
had lived Flora Macdonald, the Jacobite refugee, 
the most romantic character of North Carolina 
history. Old Judge Straight had had a tree cut 
away from the creek-side opposite his window, so 
that this historic ruin might be visible from his 
office ; for the judge could trace the ties of blood 
that connected him collaterally with this famous 
personage. His pamphlet on Flora Macdonald, 



THE OLD JUDGE 33 

printed for private circulation, was highly prized 
by those of his friends who were fortunate enough 
to obtain a copy. To the left of the window a 
placid mill-pond spread its wide expanse, and to 
the right the creek disappeared under a canopy of 
overhanging trees. 

A footstep sounded in the doorway, and War- 
wick, turning, faced the old judge. Time had left 
greater marks upon the lawyer than upon his office. 
His hair was whiter, his stoop more pronounced ; 
when he spoke to Warwick, his voice had some of 
the shrillness of old age ; and in his hand, upon 
which the veins stood out prominently, a decided 
tremor was perceptible. 

" Good - morning, Judge Straight," said the 
young man, removing his hat with the graceful 
Southern deference of the young for the old. 

" Good-morning, sir," replied the judge with 
equal courtesy. 

"You don't remember me, I imagine," sug- 
gested Warwick. 

" Your face seems familiar," returned the judge 
cautiously, "but I cannot for the moment recall 
your name. I shall be glad to have you refresh 
my memory." 

" I was John Walden, sir, when you knew 
me." 

The judge's face still gave no answering light 
of recognition. 

"Your old office-boy," continued the younger 
man. 



34 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

" Ah, indeed, so you were ! " rejoined the judge 
warmly, extending his hand with great cordiality, 
and inspecting Warwick more closely through his 
spectacles. " Let me see — you went away a few 
years before the war, was n't it ? " 

" Yes, sir, to South Carolina." 

" Yes, yes, I remember now ! I had been 
thinking it was to the North. So many things 
have happened since then, that it taxes an old 
man's memory to keep track of them all. Well, 
well ! and how have you been getting along ? " 

Warwick told his story in outline, much as he 
had given it to his mother and sister, and the 
judge seemed very much interested. 

"And you married into a good family?" he 
asked. 

" Yes, sir." 

" And have children ? " 

" One." 

" And you are visiting your mother ? " 

" Not exactly. I have seen her, but I am 
stopping at a hotel." 

" H'm ! Are you staying long? " 

" I leave to-morrow." 

" It 's well enough. I would n't stay too long. 
The people of a small town are inquisitive about 
strangers, and some of them have long memories. 
I remember we went over the law, which was in 
your favor ; but custom is stronger than law — in 
these matters custom is law. It was a great pity 
that your father did not make a will. Well, my 



THE OLD JUDGE 35 

boy, I wish you continued good luck ; I imagined 
you would make your way." 

Warwick went away, and the old judge sat for 
a moment absorbed in reflection. " Right and 
wrong," he mused, " must be eternal verities, but 
our standards for measuring them vary with our 
latitude and our epoch. We make our customs 
lightly ; once made, like our sins, they grip us in 
bands of steel ; we become the creatures of our 
creations. By one standard my old office-boy 
should never have been born. Yet he is a son of 
Adam, and came into existence in the way or- 
dained by God from the beginning of the world. 
In equity he would seem to be entitled to his 
chance in life ; it might have been wiser, though, 
for him to seek it farther afield than South Caro- 
lina. It was too near home, even though the laws, 
were with him." 



IV 

DOWN THE RIVER 

Neither mother nor daughter slept a great 
deal during the night of Warwick's first visit. 
Mis' Molly anointed her sacrifice with tears and 
cried herself to sleep. Rena's emotions were more 
conflicting ; she was sorry to leave her mother, but 
glad to go with her brother. The mere journey 
she was about to make was a great event for the 
two women to contemplate, to say nothing of the 
golden vision that lay beyond, for neither of them 
had ever been out of the town or its vicinity. 

The next day was devoted to preparations for 
the journey. Rena's slender wardrobe was made 
ready and packed in a large valise. Towards sun- 
set, Mis' Molly took off her apron, put on her 
slat-bonnet, — she was ever the pink of neatness, 
— picked her way across the street, which was 
muddy from a rain during the day, traversed the 
foot-bridge that spanned the ditch in front of the 
cooper shop, and spoke first to the elder of the two 
men working there. 

" Good-evenin', Peter." 

" Good-evenin', ma'm," responded the man 
briefly, and not relaxing at all the energy with 
which he was trimming a barrel-stave. 



DOWN THE RIVER 37 

Mis' Molly then accosted the younger workman, 
a dark-brown young man, small in stature, but 
with a well-shaped head, an expressive forehead, 
and features indicative of kindness, intelligence, 
humor, and imagination. " Frank," she asked, 
" can I git you to do somethin' f er me soon in the 
mo'nin' ? " 

" Yas 'm, I reckon so," replied the young man, 
resting his hatchet on the chopping-block. " Wat 
is it, Mis' Molly?" 

" My daughter 's goin' away on the boat, an' I 
'lowed you would n' min' totin' her kyarpet-bag 
down to the w'arf , onless you 'd ruther haul it down 
on yo'r kyart. It ain't very heavy. Of co'se I '11 
pay you fer yo'r trouble." 

" Thank y', ma'm," he replied. He knew that 
she would not pay him, for the simple reason that 
he would not accept pay for such a service. " Is 
she gwine fur ? " he asked, with a sorrowful look, 
which he could not entirely disguise. 

" As fur as Wilmin'ton an' beyon'. She '11 be 
visitin' her brother John, who lives in — another 
State, an' wants her to come an' see him." 

" Yas 'm, I '11 come. I won' need de kyart — 
I '11 tote de bag. 'Bout w'at time shill I come 
over ? " 

" Well, 'long 'bout seven o'clock or half pas'. 
She 's goin' on the Old North State, an' it leaves 
at eight." 

Frank stood looking after Mis' Molly as she 
picked her way across the street, until he was 



38 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

recalled to his duty by a sharp word from his 
father. 

" 'Ten' ter yo' wuk, boy, 'ten' ter yo' wuk. You 
're wastin' yo' time — wastin' yo' time ! " 

Yes, he was wasting his time. The beautiful 
young girl across the street could never be any- 
thing to him. But he had saved her life once, 
and had dreamed that he might render her again 
some signal service that might win her friendship, 
and convince her of his humble devotion. For 
Frank was not proud. A smile, which Peter 
would have regarded as condescending to a free 
man, who, since the war, was as good as anybody 
else ; a kind word, which Peter would have con- 
sidered offensively patronizing ; a piece of Mis' 
Molly's famous potato pone from Rena's hands, 
— a bone to a dog, Peter called it once ; — were 
ample rewards for the thousand and one small 
services Frank had rendered the two women who 
lived in the house behind the cedars. 

Frank went over in the morning a little ahead 
of the appointed time, and waited on the back 
piazza until his services were required. 

" You ain't gwine ter be gone long, is you, Miss 
Rena ? " he inquired, when Rena came out dressed 
for the journey in her best frock, with broad white 
collar and cuffs. 

Rena did not know. She had been asking her- 
self the same question. All sorts of vague dreams 
had floated through her mind during the last few 



DOWN THE RIVER 39 

hours, as to what the future might bring forth. 
But she detected the anxious note in Frank's voice, 
and had no wish to give this faithful friend of the 
family unnecessary pain. 

" Oh, no, Frank, I reckon not. I 'm supposed 
to be just going on a short visit. My brother 
has lost his wife, and wishes me to come and stay 
with him awhile, and look after his little boy." 

" I 'm feared you '11 lack it better dere, Miss 
Rena," replied Frank sorrowfully, dropping his 
mask of unconcern, " an' den you won't come 
back, an' none er yo' frien's won't never see you 
no mo'." 

" You don't think, Frank," asked Rena severely, 
" that I would leave my mother and my home and 
all my friends, and never come back again ? " 

" Why, no 'ndeed," interposed Mis' Molly wist- 
fully, as she hovered around her daughter, giving 
her hair or her gown a touch here and there ; 
" she '11 be so homesick in a month that she '11 be 
willin' to walk home." 

" You would n' never hafter do dat, Miss Rena," 
returned Frank, with a disconsolate smile. " Ef 
you ever wanter come home, an' can't git back no 
other way, jes' let me know, an' I '11 take my mule 
an' my kyart an' fetch you back, ef it 's from de 
een' er de worl'." 

" Thank you, Frank, I believe you would," said 
the girl kindly. " You 're a true friend, Frank, 
and I '11 not forget you while I 'm gone." 

The idea of her beautiful daughter riding home 



40 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

from the end of the world with Frank, in a cart, 
behind a one-eyed mule, struck Mis' Molly as the 
height of the ridiculous — she was in a state of 
excitement where tears or laughter would have 
come with equal ease — and she turned away to 
hide her merriment. Her daughter was going to 
live in a fine house, and marry a rich man, and 
ride in her carriage. Of course a negro would 
drive the carriage, but that was different from 
riding with one in a cart. 

When it was time to go, Mis' Molly and Rena 
set out on foot for the river, which was only a 
short distance away. Frank followed with the 
valise. There was no gathering of friends to see 
Rena off, as might have been the case under dif- 
ferent circumstances. Her departure had some of 
the characteristics of a secret flight ; it was as impor- 
tant that her destination should not be known, as 
it had been that her brother should conceal his 
presence in the town. 

Mis' Molly and Rena remained on the bank until 
the steamer announced, with a raucous whistle, 
its readiness to depart. Warwick was seen for a 
moment on the upper deck, from which he greeted 
them with a smile and a slight nod. He had bid- 
den his mother an affectionate farewell the even- 
ing before. Rena gave her hand to Frank. 

" Good-by, Frank," she said, with a kind smile ; 
" I hope you and mamma will be good friends 
while I 'm gone." 

The whistle blew a second warning blast, and 



DOWN THE RIVER 41 

the deck hands prepared to draw in the gang- 
plank. Rena flew into her mother's arms, and 
then, breaking away, hurried on board and retired 
to her state-room, from which she did not emerge 
during the journey. The window-blinds were 
closed, darkening the room, and the stewardess 
who came to ask if she should bring her some din- 
ner could not see her face distinctly, but perceived 
enough to make her surmise that the young lady 
had been weeping. 

" Po' chile," murmured the sympathetic col- 
ored woman, " I reckon some er her folks is dead, 
er her sweetheart 's gone back on her, er e'se she 's 
had some kin' er bad luck er 'nuther. Wite folks 
has deir troubles jes' ez well ez black folks, an' 
sometimes feels 'em mo', 'cause dey ain't ez use' 
ter 'em." 

Mis' Molly went back in sadness to the lonely 
house behind the cedars, henceforth to be peopled 
for her with only the memory of those she had 
loved. She had paid with her heart's blood an- 
other installment on the Shy lock's bond exacted 
by society for her own happiness of the past and 
her children's prospects for the future. 

The journey down the sluggish river to the sea- 
board in the flat-bottomed, stern-wheel steamer 
lasted all day and most of the night. During the 
first half-day, the boat grounded now and then 
upon a sand-bank, and the half-naked negro deck- 
hands toiled with ropes and poles to release it. 
Several times before Rena fell asleep that night, 



42 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

the steamer would tie up at a landing, and by the 
light of huge pine torches she watched the boat 
hands send the yellow turpentine barrels down the 
steep bank in a long string, or pass cord-wood on 
board from hand to hand. The excited negroes, 
their white teeth and eyeballs glistening in the 
surrounding darkness to which their £aces formed 
no relief ; the white officers in brown linen, shout- 
ing, swearing, and gesticulating; the yellow, flick- 
ering torchlight over all, — made up a scene of 
which the weird interest would have appealed to a 
more blase traveler than this girl upon her first 
journey. 

During the day, Warwick had taken his meals 
in the dining-room, with the captain and the other 
cabin passengers. It was learned that he was a 
South Carolina lawyer, and not a carpet-bagger. 
Such credentials were unimpeachable, and the 
passengers found him a very agreeable traveling 
companion. Apparently sound on the subject of 
negroes, Yankees, and the righteousness of the 
lost cause, he yet disciissed these themes in a lofty 
and impersonal manner that gave his words greater 
weight than if he had seemed warped by a per- 
sonal grievance. His attitude, in fact, piqued the 
curiosity of one or two of the passengers. 

"Did your people lose any niggers?" asked 
one of them. 

" My father owned a hundred," he replied 
grandly. 

Their respect for his views was doubled. It is 



DOWN THE RIVER 43 

easy to moralize about the misfortunes of others, 
and to find good in the evil that they suffer ; — 
only a true philosopher could speak thus lightly of 
his own losses. 

When the steamer tied up at the wharf at Wil- 
mington, in the early morning, the young lawyer 
and a veiled lady passenger drove in the same 
carriage to a hotel. After they had breakfasted 
in a private room, Warwick explained to his sister 
the plan he had formed for her future. Hence- 
forth she must be known as Miss Warwick, drop- 
ping the old name with the old life. He would 
place her for a year in a boarding-school at 
Charleston, after which she would take her place 
as the mistress of his house. Having imparted 
this information, he took his sister for a drive 
through the town. There for the first time Eena 
saw great ships, which, her brother told her, sailed 
across the mighty ocean to distant lands, whose 
flags he pointed out drooping lazily at the mast- 
heads. The business portion of the town had " an 
ancient and fishlike smell," and most of the trade 
seemed to be in cotton and naval stores and pro- 
ducts of the sea. The wharves were piled high 
with cotton bales, and there were acres of barrels 
of resin and pitch and tar and spirits of turpen- 
tine. The market, a long, low, wooden structure, 
in the middle of the principal street, was filled 
with a mass of people of all shades, from blue- 
black to Saxon blonde, gabbling and gesticulating 
over piles of oysters and clams and freshly caught 



44 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

fish of varied hue. By ten o'clock the sun was 
beating down so fiercely that the glitter of the 
white, sandy streets dazzled and pained the eyes 
unaccustomed to it, and Rena was glad to be 
driven back to the hotel. The travelers left to- 
gether on an early afternoon train. 

Thus for the time being was severed the last tie 
that bound Rena to her narrow past, and for some 
time to come the places and the people who had 
known her once were to know her no more. 

Some few weeks later, Mis' Molly called upon 
old Judge Straight with reference to the taxes on 
her property. 

" Your son came in to see me the other day," 
he remarked. " He seems to have got along." 

" Oh, yes, judge, he 's done fine, John has ; an' 
he 's took his sister away with him." 

" Ah ! " exclaimed the judge. Then after a 
pause he added, " I hope she may do as well." 

"Thank you, sir," she said, with a curtsy, as 
she rose to go. " We 've always knowed that you 
were our friend and wished us well." 

The judge looked after her as she walked away. 
Her bearing had a touch of timidity, a shade of 
affectation, and yet a certain pathetic dignity. 

" It is a pity," he murmured, with a sigh, " that 
men cannot select their mothers. My young friend 
John has builded, whether wisely or not, very 
well ; but he has come back into the old life and 
carried away a part of it, and I fear that this 
addition will weaken the structure." 



THE TOURNAMENT 

The annual tournament of the Clarence So- 
cial Club was about to begin. The county fair- 
ground, where all was in readiness, sparkled with 
the youth and beauty of the town, standing here 
and there under the trees in animated groups, or 
moving toward the seats from which the pageant 
might be witnessed. A quarter of a mile of the 
race track, to right and left of the judges' stand, 
had been laid off for the lists. Opposite the 
grand stand, which occupied a considerable part 
of this distance, a dozen uprights had been erected 
at measured intervals. Projecting several feet 
over the track from each of these uprights was an 
iron crossbar, from which an iron hook depended. 
Between the uprights stout posts were planted, 
of such a height that their tops could be easily 
reached by a swinging sword-cut from a mounted 
rider passing upon the track. The influence of 
Walter Scott was strong upon the old South. 
The South before the war was essentially feudal, 
and Scott's novels of chivalry appealed forcefully 
to the feudal heart. During the month preceding 
the Clarence tournament, the local bookseller had 



46 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

closed out his entire stock of " Ivanhoe," consist- 
ing of five copies, and had taken orders for seven 
copies more. The tournament scene in this popu- 
lar novel furnished the model after which these 
bloodless imitations of the ancient passages-at- 
arms were conducted, with such variations as were 
required to adapt them to a different age and 
civilization. 

The best people gradually filled the grand 
stand, while the poorer white and colored folks 
found seats outside, upon what would now be 
known as the " bleachers," or stood alongside the 
lists. The knights, masquerading in fanciful 
costumes, in which bright-colored garments, gilt 
paper, and cardboard took the place of knightly 
harness, were mounted on spirited horses. Most 
of them were gathered at one end of the lists, 
while others practiced their steeds upon the unoc- 
cupied portion of the race track. 

The judges entered the grand stand, and one 
of them, after looking at his watch, gave a signal. 
Immediately a herald, wearing a bright yellow 
sash, blew a loud blast upon a bugle, and, big 
with the importance of his office, galloped wildly 
down the lists. An attendant on horseback busied 
himself hanging upon each of the pendent hooks 
an iron ring, of some two inches in diameter, 
while another, on foot, placed on top of each of 
the shorter posts a wooden ball some four inches 
through. 

" It 's my first tournament," observed a lady 



THE TOURNAMENT 47 

near the front of the grand stand, leaning over 
and addressing John Warwick, who was seated in 
the second row, in company with a very handsome 
girl. " It is somewhat different from Ashby-de- 
la-Zouch." 

" It is the renaissance of chivalry, Mrs. New- 
berry," replied the young lawyer, " and, like any 
other renaissance, it must adapt itself to new times 
and circumstances. For instance, when we build 
a Greek portico, having no Pentelic marble near 
at hand, we use a pine-tree, one of nature's col- 
umns, which Grecian art at its best could only 
copy and idealize. Our knights are not weighted, 
down with heavy armor, but much more appro- 
priately attired, for a day like this, in costumes 
that recall the picturesqueness, without the discom- 
fort, of the old knightly harness. For an iron- 
headed lance we use a wooden substitute, with 
which we transfix rings instead of hearts ; while 
our trusty blades hew their way through wooden 
blocks instead of through flesh and blood. It is 
a South Carolina renaissance which has points of 
advantage over the tournaments of the olden time." 

" I 'm afraid, Mr. Warwick," said the lach 
" that you 're the least bit heretical about our chiv- 
alry — or else you 're a little too deep for me." 

" The last would be impossible, Mrs. Newberry ; 
and I 'm sure our chivalry has proved its valor on 
many a hard-fought field. The spirit of a tiling, 
after all, is what counts ; and what is lacking 
here ? We have the lists, the knights, the pran- 



48 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

cing steeds, the trial of strength and skill. If our 
knights do not run the physical risks of Ashby- 
de-la-Zouch, they have all the mental stimulus. 
Wounded vanity will take the place of wounded 
limbs, and there will be broken hopes in lieu of 
broken heads. How many hearts in yonder group 
of gallant horsemen beat high with hope ! How 
many possible Queens of Love and Beauty are in 
this group of fair faces that surround us ! " 

The lady was about to reply, when the bugle 
sounded again, and the herald dashed swiftly back 
upon his prancing steed to the waiting group of 
riders. The horsemen formed three abreast, and 
rode down the lists in orderly array. As they 
passed the grand stand, each was conscious of the 
battery of bright eyes turned upon him, and each 
gave by his bearing some idea of his ability to 
stand fire from such weapons. One horse pranced 
proudly, another caracoled with grace. One rider 
fidgeted nervously, another trembled and looked 
the other way. Each horseman carried in his hand 
a long wooden lance and wore at his side a cavalry 
sabre, of which there were plenty to be had since 
the war, at small expense. Several left the ranks 
and drew up momentarily beside the grand stand, 
where they took from fair hands a glove or a 
flower, which was pinned upon the rider's breast 
or fastened upon his hat — a ribbon or a veil, which 
was tied about the lance like a pennon, but far 
enough from the point not to interfere with the 
usefulness of the weapon. 



THE TOURNAMENT 49 

As the troop passed the lower end of the grand 
stand, a horse, excited by the crowd, became 
somewhat unmanageable, and in the effort to curb 
him, the rider dropped his lance. The prancing 
animal reared, brought one of his hoofs down upon 
the fallen lance with considerable force, and sent a 
broken piece of it flying over the railing opposite 
the grand stand, into the middle of a group of 
spectators standing there. The flying fragment 
was dodged by those who saw it coming, but 
brought up with a resounding thwack against the 
head of a colored man in the second row, who 
stood watching the grand stand with an eager and 
curious gaze. He rubbed his head ruefully, and 
made a good-natured response to the chaffing of 
his neighbors, who, seeing no great harm done, 
made witty and original remarks about the ad- 
vantage of being black upon occasions where one's 
skull was exposed to danger. Finding that the 
blow had drawn blood, the young man took out a 
red bandana handkerchief and tied it around his 
head, meantime letting his eye roam over the faces 
in the grand stand, as though in search of some 
one that he expected or hoped to find there. 

The knights, having reached the end of the 
lists, now turned and rode back in open order, 
with such skillful horsemanship as to evoke a 
storm of applause from the spectators. The ladies 
in the grand stand waved their handkerchiefs 
vigorously, and the men clapped their hands. The 
beautiful girl seated by Warwick's side acciden- 



50 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

tally let a little square of white lace-trimmed linen 
slip from her hand. It fluttered lightly over the 
railing, and, buoyed up by the air, settled slowly 
toward the lists. A young rider in the approach- 
ing rear rank saw the handkerchief fall, and dart- 
ing swiftly forward, caught it on the point of his 
lance ere it touched the ground. He drew up his 
horse and made a movement as though to extend 
the handkerchief toward the lady, who was blush- 
ing profusely at the attention she had attracted by 
her carelessness. The rider hesitated a moment, 
glanced interrogatively at Warwick, and receiving 
a smile in return, tied the handkerchief around 
the middle of his lance and quickly rejoined his 
comrades at the head of the lists. 

The young man with the bandage round his 
head, on the benches across the lists, had forced 
his way to the front row and was leaning against 
the railing. His restless eye was attracted by 
the falling handkerchief, and his face, hitherto 
anxious, suddenly lit up with animation. 

" Yas, suhj yas, suh, it 's her ! " he muttered 
softly. " It 's Miss Rena, sho 's you bawn. She 
looked lack a' angel befo'i, but now, up dere 
'mongs' all dem rich, fine folks, she looks lack a 
whole flock er angels. Dey ain' one er dem ladies 
w'at could hoi' a candle ter her. I wonder w'at 
dat man 's gwine ter do wid her handkercher ? I 
s'pose he 's her gent'eman now. I wonder ef 
she 'd know me er speak ter me ef she seed me ? 
I reckon she would, spite er her gittin' up so in 



THE TOURNAMENT 51 

de worl' ; fer she wuz alluz good ter ev'ybody, an' 
dat let even me in," he concluded with a sigh. 

" Who is the lady, Tryon ? " asked one of the 
young men, addressing the knight who had taken 
the handkerchief. 

" A Miss Warwick," replied the knight plea- 
santly, " Miss Eowena Warwick, the lawyer's 
sister." 

" I did n't know he had a sister," rejoined the 
first speaker. " I envy you your lady. There 
are six Rebeccas and eight Rowenas of my own 
acquaintance in the grand stand, but she throws 
them all into the shade. She has n't been here 
long, surely ; I have n't seen her before." 

" She has been away at school ; she came only 
last night," returned the knight of the crimson 
sash, briefly. He was already beginning to feel a 
proprietary interest in the lady whose token he 
wore, and did not care to discuss her with a casual 
acquaintance. 

The herald sounded the charge. A rider darted 
out from the group and galloped over the course. 
As he passed under each ring, he tried to catch it 
on the point of his lance, — a feat which made 
the management of the horse with the left hand 
necessary, and required a true eye and a steady 
arm. The rider captured three of the twelve 
rings, knocked three others off the hooks, and 
left six undisturbed. Turning at the end of the 
lists, he took the lance with the reins in the left 
hand and drew his sword with the right. He 



52 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

then rode back over the course, cutting at the 
wooden balls upon the posts. Of these he clove 
one in twain, to use the parlance of chivalry, and 
knocked two others off their supports. His per- 
formance was greeted with a liberal measure of 
applause, for which he bowed in smiling acknow- 
ledgment as he took Ms place among the riders. 

Again the herald's call sounded, and the tourney 
went forward. Rider after rider, with varying 
skill, essayed his fortune with lance and sword. 
Some took a liberal proportion of the rings ; others 
merely knocked them over the boundaries, where 
they were collected by agile little negro boys and 
handed back to the attendants. A balking horse 
caused the spectators much amusement and his 
rider no little chagrin. 

The lady who had dropped the handkerchief 
kept her eye upon the knight who had bound it 
round his lance. " Who is he, John ? " she asked 
the gentleman beside her. 

" That, my dear Rowena, is my good friend and 
client, George Tryon, of North Carolina. If he had 
been a stranger, I should have said that he took a 
liberty; but as things stand, we ought to regard it 
as a compliment. The incident is quite in accord 
with the customs of chivalry. If George were but 
masked and you were veiled, we should have a 
romantic situation, — you the mysterious damsel in 
distress, he the unknown champion. The parallel, 
my dear, might not be so hard to draw, even as 
things are. But look, it is his turn now ; I '11 wager 
that he makes a good run." 



THE TOURNAMENT 53 

" I '11 take you up on that, Mr. Warwick," said 
Mrs. Newberry from behind, who seemed to have a 
very keen ear for whatever Warwick said. 

Rena's eyes were fastened on her knight, so that 
she might lose no single one of his movements. As 
he rode down the lists, more than one woman found 
him pleasant to look upon. He was a tall, fair 
young man, with gray eyes, and a frank, open face. 
He wore a slight mustache, and when he smiled, 
showed a set of white and even teeth. He was 
mounted on a very handsome and spirited bay mare, 
was clad in a picturesque costume, of which velvet 
knee-breeches and a crimson scarf were the most 
conspicuous features, and displayed a marked skill 
in horsemanship. At the blast of the bugle his 
horse started forward, and, after the first few rods, 
settled into an even gallop. Tryon's lance, held 
truly and at the right angle, captured the first ring, 
then the second and third. His coolness and stead- 
iness seemed not at all disturbed by the applause 
which followed, and one by one the remaining rings 
slipped over the point of his lance, until at the end 
he had taken every one of the twelve. Holding 
the lance with its booty of captured rings in his 
left hand, together with the bridle rein, he drew his 
sabre with the right and rode back over the course. 
His horse moved like clockwork, his eye was true 
and his hand steady. Three of the wooden balls 
fell from the posts, split fairly in the middle, while 
from the fourth he sliced off a goodly piece and left 
the remainder standing in its place. 



54 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

This performance, by far the best up to this 
point, and barely escaping perfection, elicited a 
storm of applause. The rider was not so well 
known to the townspeople as some of the other 
participants, and his name passed from mouth to 
mouth in answer to numerous inquiries. The girl 
whose token he had worn also became an object of 
renewed interest, because of the result to her in 
case the knight should prove victor in the contest, 
of which there could now scarcely be a doubt ; for 
but three riders remained, and it was very improb- 
able that any one of them would excel the last. 
Wagers for the remainder of the tourney stood 
anywhere from five, and even from ten to one, in 
favor of the knight of the crimson sash, and when 
the last course had been run, his backers were 
jubilant. No one of those following him had dis- 
played anything like equal skill. 

The herald now blew his bugle and declared the 
tournament closed. The judges put their heads 
together for a moment. The bugle sounded again, 
and the herald announced in a loud voice that Sir 
George Tryon, having taken the greatest number 
of rings and split the largest number of balls, was 
proclaimed victor in the tournament and entitled 
to the flowery chaplet of victory. 

Tryon, having bowed repeatedly in response to 
the liberal applause, advanced to the judges' stand 
and received the trophy from the hands of the chief 
judge, who exhorted him to wear the garland wor- 
thily, ai;d to yield it only to a better man. 



THE TOURNAMENT 55 

" It will be your privilege, Sir George," an- 
nounced the judge, " as the chief reward of your 
valor, to select from the assembled beauty of Clar- 
ence the lady whom you wish to honor, to whom 
we will all do homage as the Queen of Love and 
Beauty." 

Tryon took the wreath and bowed his thanks. 
Then placing the trophy on the point of his lance, 
he spoke earnestly for a moment to the herald, and 
rode past the grand stand, from which there was 
another outburst of applause. Returning upon his 
tracks, the knight of the crimson sash paused before 
the group where Warwick and his sister sat, and 
lowered the wreath thrice before the lady whose 
token he had won. 

" Oyez ! Oyez ! " cried the herald ; " Sir George 
Tryon, the victor in the tournament, has chosen 
Miss Rowena Warwick as the Queen of Love and 
Beauty, and she will be crowned at the feast to-night 
and receive the devoirs of all true knights." 

The fair-ground was soon covered with scattered 
groups of the spectators of the tournament. In 
one group a vanquished knight explained in elabo- 
rate detail why it was that he had failed to win the 
wreath. More than one young woman wondered 
why some one of the home young men could not 
have taken the honors, or, if the stranger must win 
them, why he could not have selected some belle of 
the town as Queen of Love and Beauty instead 
of this upstart girl who had blown into the town 
over night, as one might say. 



56 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

Warwick and his sister, standing under a spread- 
ing elm, held a little court of their own. A dozen 
gentlemen and several ladies had sought an intro= 
duction before Tryon came up„ 

" I suppose John would have a right to call me 
out, Miss Warwick," said Tryon, when he had been 
formally introduced and had shaken hands with 
Warwick's sister, " for taking liberties with the 
property and name of a lady to whom I had not 
had an introduction ; but I know John so well 
that you seemed like an old acquaintance ; and 
when I saw you, and recalled your name, which 
your brother had mentioned more than once, I felt 
instinctively that you ought to be the queen. I 
entered my name only yesterday, merely to swell 
the number and make the occasion more interest- 
ing. These fellows have been practicing for a 
month, and I had no hope of winning. I should 
have been satisfied, indeed, if I had n't made my- 
self ridiculous ; but when you dropped your hand- 
kerchief, I felt a sudden inspiration ; and as soon 
as I had tied it upon my lance, victory perched 
upon my saddle-bow, guided my lance and sword, 
and rings and balls went down before me like chaff 
before the wind. Oh, it was a great inspiration, 
Miss Warwick ! " 

Rena, for it was our Patesville acquaintance fresh 
from boarding-school, colored deeply at this frank 
and fervid flattery, and could only murmur an 
inarticulate reply. Her year of instruction, while 
distinctly improving her mind and manners, had 



THE TOURNAMENT 57 

scarcely prepared her for so sudden an elevation 
into a grade of society to which she had hitherto 
been a stranger. She was not without a certain 
courage, however, and her brother, who remained 
at her side, helped her over the most difficult situa- 
tions. 

" We '11 forgive you, George," replied Warwick, 
" if you '11 come home to luncheon with us." 

" I 'm mighty sorry — awfully sorry," returned 
Try on, with evident regret, " but I have another 
engagement, which I can scarcely break, even by 
the command of royalty. At what time shall I 
call for Miss Warwick this evening ? I believe that 
privilege is mine, along with the other honors and 
rewards of victory, — unless she is bound to some 
one else." 

" She is entirely free," replied Warwick. " Come 
as early as you like, and I '11 talk to you until she 's 
ready." 

Tryon bowed himself away, and after a number 
of gentlemen and a few ladies had paid their 
respects to the Queen of Love and Beauty, and 
received an introduction to her, Warwick signaled 
to the servant who had his carriage in charge, and 
was soon driving homeward with his sister. No one 
of the party noticed a young negro, with a hand- 
kerchief bound around his head, who followed them 
until the carriage turned into the gate and swept 
up the wide drive that led to Warwick's doorstep. 

" Well, Rena," said Warwick, when they found 
themselves alone, " you have arrived. Your debut 



58 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

into society is a little more spectacular than I should 
have wished, but we must rise to the occasion 
and make the most of it. You are winning: the 
first fruits of your opportunity. You are the most 
envied woman in Clarence at this particular mo- 
ment, and, unless I am mistaken, will be the most 
admired at the ball to-night." 



VI 

THE QUEEN OF LOVE AND BEAUTY 

Shortly after luncheon, Rena had a visitor in 
the person of Mrs. Newberry, a vivacious young 
widow of the town, who proffered her services to 
instruct Rena in the etiquette of the annual ball. 

" Now, my dear," said Mrs. Newberry, " the 
first thing to do is to get your coronation robe 
ready. It simply means a gown with a long train. 
You have a lovely white waist. Get right into my 
buggy, and we '11 go down town to get the cloth, 
take it over to Mrs. Marshall's, and have her run 
you up a skirt this afternoon." 

Rena placed herself unreservedly in the hands 
of Mrs. Newberry, who introduced her to the best 
dressmaker of the town, a woman of much experi- 
ence in such affairs, who improvised during the 
afternoon a gown suited to the occasion. Mrs. 
Marshall had made more than a dozen ball dresses 
during the preceding month ; being a wise woman 
and understanding her business thoroughly, she 
had made each one of them so that with a few 
additional touches it might serve for the Queen of 
Love and Beauty. This was her first direct order 
for the specific garment. 



60 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

Tryon escorted Rena to the ball, which was 
held in the principal public hall of the town, and 
attended by all the best people. The champion 
still wore the costume of the morning, in place 
of evening dress, save that long stockings and 
dancing-pumps had taken the place of riding-boots. 

Rena went through the ordeal very creditably. 
Her shyness was palpable, but it was saved from 
awkwardness by her native grace and good sense. 
She made up in modesty what she lacked in 
aplomb. Her months in school had not eradicated 
a certain self-consciousness born of her secret. 
The brain-cells never lose the impressions of youth, 
and Rena's Patesville life was not far enough re- 
moved to have lost its distinctness of outline. 
Of the two, the present was more of a dream, 
the past was the more vivid reality. At school she 
had learned something from books and not a little 
from observation. She had been able to compare 
herself with other girls, and to see wherein she ex- 
celled or fell short of them. With a sincere desire 
for improvement, and a wish to please her brother 
and do him credit, she had sought to make the 
most of her opportunities. Building upon a foun- 
dation of innate taste and intelligence, she had 
acquired much of the self-possession which comes 
from a knowledge of correct standards of deport- 
ment. She had moreover learned without diffi- 
culty, for it suited her disposition, to keep silence 
when she could not speak to advantage. A certain 
necessary reticence about the past added strength 



THE QUEEN OF LOVE AND BEAUTY 61 

to a natural reserve. Thus equipped, she held her 
own very well in the somewhat trying ordeal of 
the ball, at which the fiction of queenship and the 
attendant ceremonies, which were pretty and grace- 
ful, made her the most conspicuous figure. Few 
of those who watched her move with easy grace 
through the measures of the dance could have 
guessed how nearly her heart was in her mouth 
during much of the time. 

" You 're doing splendidly, my dear," said Mrs. 
Newberry, who had constituted herself Rena's 
chaperone. 

" I trust your Gracious Majesty is pleased with 
the homage of your devoted subjects," said Tryon, 
who spent much of his time by her side and kept 
up the character of knight in his speech and 
manner. 

" Very much," replied the Queen of Love and 
Beauty, with a somewhat tired smile. It was 
pleasant, but she would be glad, she thought, when 
it was all over. 

" Keep up your courage," whispered her brother. 
" You are not only queen, but the belle of the 
ball. I am proud of you. A dozen women here 
would give a year off the latter end of life to be 
in your shoes to-night." 

Rena felt immensely relieved when the hour ar- 
rived at which she could take her departure, which 
was to be the signal for the breaking-up of the 
ball. She was driven home in Tryon's carriage, 
her brother accompanying them. The night was 



62 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

warm, and the drive homeward under the starlight, 
in the open carriage, had a soothing effect upon 
Rena's excited nerves. The calm restf ulness of 
the night, the cool blue depths of the unclouded 
sky, the solemn croaking of the frogs in a distant 
swamp, were much more in harmony with her 
nature than the crowded brilliancy of the ball-room. 
She closed her eyes, and, leaning back in the car- 
riage, thought of her mother, who she wished might 
have seen her daughter this night. A momentary 
pang of homesickness pierced her tender heart, 
and she furtively wiped away the tears that came 
into her eyes. 

' " Good-night, fair Queen ! " exclaimed Try on, 
breaking into her reverie as the carriage rolled up 
to the doorstep, " and let your loyal subject kiss 
your hand in token of his fealty. May your 
Majesty never abdicate her throne, and may she 
ever count me her humble servant and devoted 
knight." 

" And now, sister," said Warwick, when Tryon 
had been driven away, " now that the masquerade 
is over, let us to sleep, and to-morrow take up the 
serious business of lif e. Your day has been a glo- 
rious success ! " 

He put his arm around her and gave her a kiss 
and a brotherly hug. 

" It is a dream," she murmured sleepily, " only 
a dream. I am Cinderella before the clock has 
struck. Good-night, dear John." 

" Good-night, Rowena." 



VII 

'mid new surroundings 

Warwick's residence was situated in the out- 
skirts of the town. It was a fine old plantation 
house, built in colonial times, with a stately colon- 
nade, wide verandas, and long windows with Ve- 
netian blinds. It was painted white, and stood 
back several rods from the street, in a charming 
setting of palmettoes, magnolias, and flowering 
shrubs. Rena had always thought her mother's 
house large, but now it seemed cramped and nar- 
row, in comparison with this roomy mansion. The 
furniture was old-fashioned and massive. The 
great brass andirons on the wide hearth stood like 
sentinels proclaiming and guarding the dignity of 
the family. The spreading antlers on the wall tes- 
tified to a mighty hunter in some past generation. 
The portraits of Warwick's wife's ancestors — 
high-featured, proud men and women, dressed in 
the fashions of a bygone age — looked down from 
tarnished gilt frames. It was all very novel to 
her, and very impressive. When she ate off 
china, with silver knives and forks that had come 
down as heirlooms, escaping somehow the ravages 
and exigencies of the war time, — Warwick told 



64 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

her afterwards how he had buried them out of 
reach of friend or foe, — she thought that her 
brother must be wealthy, and she felt very proud 
of him and of her opportunity. The servants, of 
whom there were several in the house, treated her 
with a deference to which her eight months in 
school had only partly accustomed her. At school 
she had been one of many to be served, and had 
herself been held to obedience. Here, for the first 
time in her life, she was mistress, and tasted the 
sweets of power. 

The household consisted of her brother and 
herself, a cook, a coachman, a nurse, and her 
brother's little son Albert. The child, with a fine 
instinct, had put out his puny arms to Kena at first 
sight, and she had clasped the little man to her 
bosom with a motherly caress. She had always 
loved weak creatures. Kittens and puppies had 
ever found a welcome and a meal at Rena's hands, 
only to be chased away by Mis' Molly, who had 
had a wider experience. No shiftless poor white, 
no half-witted or hungry negro, had ever gone 
unfed from Mis' Molly's kitchen door if Rena 
were there to hear his plaint. Little Albert was 
pale and sickly when she came, but soon bloomed 
again in the sunshine of her care, and was happy 
only in her presence. Warwick found pleasure in 
their growing love for each other, and was glad 
to perceive that the child formed a living link to 
connect her with his home. 

" Dat chile sutt'nly do lub Miss Rena, an' 



'MID NEW SURROUNDINGS 65 

dat 's a fac', sho 's you bawn," remarked 'Lissa the 
cook to Mirny the nurse one day. " You '11 get 
yo' nose put out er j'int, ef you don't niin'." 

" I ain't frettin', honey," laughed the nurse 
good-naturedly. She was not at all jealous. She 
had the same wages as before, and her labors were 
materially lightened by the aunt's attention to the 
child. This gave Mirny much more time to flirt 
with Tom the coachman. 

It was a source of much gratification to War- 
wick that his sister seemed to adapt herself so 
easily to the new conditions. Her graceful move- 
ments, the quiet elegance with which she wore 
even the simplest gown, the easy authoritativeness 
with which she directed the servants, were to him 
proofs of superior quality, and he felt correspond- 
' ingly proud of her. His feeling for her was some- 
thing more than brotherly love, — he was quite 
conscious that there were degrees in brotherly 
love, and that if she had been homely or stupid, 
he would never have disturbed her in the stagnant 
life of the house behind the cedars. There had 
come to him from some source, down the stream 
of time, a rill of the Greek sense of proportion, of 
fitness, of beauty, which is indeed but propor- 
tion embodied, the perfect adaptation of means to 
ends. He had perceived, more clearly than she 
could have appreciated it at that time, the unde- 
veloped elements of discord between Rena and her 
former life. He had imagined her lending grace 
and charm to his own household. Still another 



66 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

motive, a purely psychological one, had more or 
less consciously influenced him. He had no fear 
that the family secret would ever be discovered, — 
he had taken his precautions too thoroughly, he 
thought, for that ; and yet he could not but feel, 
at times, that if peradventure — it was a conceiv- 
able hypothesis — it should become known, his 
fine social position would collapse like a house of 
cards. Because of this knowledge, which the 
world around him did not possess, he had felt now 
and then a certain sense of loneliness ; and there 
was a measure of relief in having about him 
one who knew his past, and yet whose knowledge, 
because of their common interest, would not inter- 
fere with his present or jeopardize his future. 
• For he had always been, in a figurative sense, a 
naturalized foreigner in the world of wide oppor- 
tunity, and Rena was one of his old compatriots, 
whom he was glad to welcome into the populous 
loneliness of his adopted country. 



VIII 

THE COURTSHIP 

In a few weeks the echoes of the tournament 
died away, and Rena's life settled down into a 
pleasant routine, which she found much more 
comfortable than her recent spectacular promi- 
nence. Her queenship, while not entirely for- 
given by the ladies of the town, had gained for 
her a temporary social prominence. Among her 
own sex, Mrs. Newberry proved a warm and 
, enthusiastic friend. Rumor whispered that the 
lively young widow would not be unwilling to 
console Warwick in the loneliness of the old 
colonial mansion, to which his sister was a most 
excellent medium of approach. Whether this was 
true or not it is unnecessary to inquire, for it is 
no part of this story, except as perhaps indicat- 
ing why Mrs. Newberry played the part of the 
female friend, without whom no woman is ever 
launched successfully in a small and conservative 
society. Her brother's standing gave her the 
right of social entry ; the tournament opened wide 
the door, and Mrs. Newberry performed the cere- 
mony of introduction. Rena had many visitors 
during the month following the tournament, and 



68 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

might have made her choice from among a dozen 
suitors ; but among them all, her knight of the 
handkerchief found most favor. 



George Tryon had come to Clarence a few 
months before upon business connected with the 
settlement of his grandfather's estate. A rather 
complicated litigation had grown up around the 
affair, various phases of which had kept Tryon 
almost constantly in the town. He had placed 
matters in Warwick's hands, and had formed a 
decided friendship for his attorney, for whom 
he felt a frank admiration. Tryon was only 
twenty-three, and his friend's additional five years, 
supplemented by a certain professional gravity, 
commanded a great deal of respect from the 
younger man. When Tryon had known War- 
wick for a week, he had been ready to swear by 
him. Indeed, Warwick was a man for whom 
most people formed a liking at first sight. To 
this power of attraction he owed most of his suc- 
cess — first with Judge Straight, of Patesville, 
then with the lawyer whose office he had entered 
at Clarence, with the woman who became his 
wife, and with the clients for whom he trans- 
acted business. Tryon would have maintained 
against all comers that Warwick was the finest 
fellow in the world. When he met Warwick's 
sister, the foundation for admiration had al- 
ready been laid. If Kena had proved to be a 
maiden lady of uncertain age and doubtful per- 



THE COURTSHIP 69 

sonal attractiveness, Tryon would probably have 
found in her a most excellent lady, worthy of all 
respect and esteem, and would have treated her 
with profound deference and sedulous courtesy. 
When she proved to be a young and handsome 
woman, of the type that he admired most, he 
was capable of any degree of infatuation. His 
mother had for a long time wanted him to marry 
the orphan daughter of an old friend, a vivacious 
blonde, who worshiped him. He had felt friendly 
towards her, but had shrunk from matrimony. 
He did not want her badly enough to give up his 
freedom. The war had interfered with his edu- 
cation, and though fairly well instructed, he had 
never attended college. In his own opinion, he 
ought to see something of the world, and have his 
youthful fling. Later on, when he got ready to 
settle down, if Blanche were still in the humor, 
they might marry, and sink to the humdrum 
level of other old married people. The fact that 
Blanche Leary was visiting his mother during his 
unexpectedly long absence had not operated at 
all to hasten his return to North Carolina. He 
had been having a very good time at Clarence, 
and, at the distance of several hundred miles, was 
safe for the time being from any immediate dan- 
ger of marriage. 

With Rena's advent, however, he had seen life 
through different glasses. His heart had thrilled 
at first sight of this tall girl, with the ivory com- 
plexion, the rippling brown hair, and the inscru- 



70 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

table eyes. When he became better acquainted 
with her, he liked to think that her thoughts cen- 
tred mainly in himself ; and in this he was not 
far wrong. He discovered that she had a short 
upper lip, and what seemed to him an eminently 
kissable mouth. After he had dined twice at 
Warwick's, subsequently to the tournament, — his 
lucky choice of Rena had put him at once upon 
a household footing with the family, — his views 
of marriage changed entirely. It now seemed to 
him the duty, as well as the high and holy privi- 
lege of a young man, to marry and manfully to 
pay his debt to society. When in Rena's pre- 
sence, he could not imagine how he had ever con- 
templated the possibility of marriage with Blanche 
Leary, — she was utterly, entirely, and hopelessly 
unsuited to him. For a fair man of vivacious 
temperament, this stately dark girl was the ideal 
mate. Even his mother would admit this, if she 
could only see Rena. To win this beautiful 
girl for his wife would be a worthy task. He had 
crowned her Queen of Love and Beauty ; since 
then she had ascended the throne of his heart. 
He would make her queen of his home and mis- 
tress of his life. 

To Rena this brief month's courtship came as a 
new education. Not only had this fair young man 
crowned her queen, and honored her above all 
the ladies in town ; but since then he had waited 
assiduously upon her, had spoken softly to her, had 
looked at her with shining eyes, and had sought to 



THE COURTSHIP 71 

be alone with her. The time soon came when to 
touch his hand in greeting sent a thrill through her 
frame, — a time when she listened for his footstep 
and was happy in his presence. He had been bold 
enough at the tournament ; he had since become 
somewhat bashful and constrained. He must be in 
love, she thought, and wondered how soon he would 
speak. If it were so sweet to walk with him in the 
garden, or along the shaded streets, to sit with him, 
to feel the touch of his hand, what happiness would 
it not be to hear him say that he loved her — to 
bear his name, to live with him always. To be thus 
loved and honored by this handsome young man, 
— she could hardly believe it possible. He would 
never speak — he would discover her secret and 
withdraw. She turned pale at the thought, — ah, 
God ! something would happen, — it was too good 
to be true. The Prince would never try on the 
glass slipper. 

Tryon first told his love for Rena one summer 
evening on their way home from church. They 
were walking in the moonlight along the quiet street, 
which, but for their presence, seemed quite deserted. 

" Miss Warwick — Rowena," he said, clasping 
with his right hand the hand that rested on his left 
arm, " I love you ! Do you — love me ? " 

To Rena this simple avowal came with much 
greater force than a more formal declaration could 
have had. It appealed to her own simple nature. 
Indeed, few women at such a moment criticise the 
form in which the most fatef id words of life — but 



72 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

one — are spoken. Words, while pleasant, are 
really superfluous. Her whispered " Yes " spoke 
volumes. 

They walked on past the house, along the country 
road into which the street soon merged. When 
they returned, an hour later, they found Warwick 
seated on the piazza, in a rocking-chair, smoking a 
fragrant cigar. 

" Well, children," he observed with mock severity, 
" you are late in getting home from church. The 
sermon must have been extremely long." 

" We have been attending an after-meeting," 
replied Tryon joyfully, " and have been discussing 
an old text, ' Little children, love one another,' 
and its corollary, ' It is not good for man to live 
alone.' John, I am the happiest man alive. Your 
sister has promised to marry me. I should like to 
shake my brother's hand." 

Never does one feel so strongly the universal 
brotherhood of man as when one loves some other 
fellow's sister. Warwick sprang from his chair and 
clasped Tryon's extended hand with real emotion. 
He knew of no man whom he would have preferred 
to Tryon as a husband for his sister. 

" My dear George — my dear sister," he 
exclaimed, " I am very, very glad. I wish you 
every happiness. My sister is the most fortunate 
of women." 

" And I am the luckiest of men," cried Tryon. 

" I wish you every happiness," repeated War- 
wick ; adding, with a touch of solemnity, as a cer- 



THE COURTSHIP 73 

tain thought, never far distant, occurred to him, 
" I hope that neither of you may ever regret your 
choice." 

Thus placed upon the footing of an accepted 
lover, Tryon's visits to the house became more fre- 
quent. He wished to fix a time for the marriage, 
but at this point Rena developed a strange reluc- 
tance. 

" Can we not love each other for a while ? " she 
asked. "To be engaged is a pleasure that comes 
but once ; it would be a pity to cut it too short." 

" It is a pleasure that I would cheerfully dispense 
with," he replied, " for the certainty of possession. 
I want you all to myself, and all the time. Things 
might happen. If I should die, for instance, before 
I married you " — 

" Oh, don't suppose such awful things," she 
cried, putting her hand over his mouth. 

He held it there and kissed it until she pulled it 
away. 

" I should consider," he resumed, completing the 
sentence, " that my life had been a failure." 

" If I should die," she murmured, " I should die 
happy in the knowledge that you had loved me." 

" In three weeks," he went on, " I shall have 
finished my business in Clarence, and there will be 
but one thing to keep me here. When shall it be ? 
I must take you home with me." 

" I will let you know," she replied, with a troubled 
sigh, " in a week from to-day." 

" I '11 call your attention to the subject every day 



74 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

in the mean time," lie asserted. " I should n't like 
you to forget it." 

Kena's shrinking from the irrevocable step of 
marriage was due to a simple and yet complex 
cause. Stated baldly, it was the consciousness of 
her secret ; the complexity arose out of the vari- 
ous ways in which it seemed to bear upon her 
future. Our lives are so bound up with those of 
our fellow men that the slightest departure from 
the beaten- path involves a multiplicity of small 
adjustments. It had not been difficult for Rena 
to conform her speech, her manners, and in a 
measure her modes of thought, to those of the 
people around her ; but when this readjustment 
went beyond mere externals and concerned the 
vital issues of life, the secret that oppressed her 
took on a more serious aspect, with tragic possibil- 
ities. A discursive imagination was not one of her 
characteristics, or the danger of a marriage of 
which perfect frankness was not a condition might 
well have presented itself before her heart had be- 
come involved. Under the influence of doubt and 
fear acting upon love, the invisible bar to happi- 
ness glowed with a lambent flame that threatened 
dire disaster. 

" Would he have loved me at all," she asked 
herself, "if he had known the story of my past ? 
Or, having loved me, could he blame me now for 
what I cannot help ? " 

There were two shoals in the channel of her life, 
upon either of which her happiness might go 



THE COURTSHIP 75 

to shipwreck. Since leaving the house behind the 
cedars, where she had been brought into the 
world without her own knowledge or consent, and 
had first drawn the breath of life by the invol- 
untary contraction of certain muscles, Rena had 
learned, in a short time, many things ; but she 
was yet to learn that the innocent suffer with the 
guilty, and feel the punishment the more keenly 
because unmerited. She had yet to learn that the 
old Mosaic formula, " The sins of the fathers 
shall be visited upon the children," was graven 
more indelibly upon the heart of the race than 
upon the tables of Sinai. 

But would her lover still love her, if he knew 
all? She had read some of the novels in the 
bookcase in her mother's hall, and others at board- 
ing-school. She had read that love was a con- 
queror, that neither life nor death, nor creed nor 
caste, could stay his triumphant course. Her secret 
was no legal bar to their union. If Rena could 
forget the secret, and Tryon should never know it, 
it would be no obstacle to their happiness. But 
Rena felt, with a sinking of the heart, that happi- 
ness was not a matter of law or of fact, but lay 
entirely within the domain of sentiment. We are 
happy when we think ourselves happy, and with a 
strange perversity we often differ from others with 
regard to what should constitute our happiness. 
Rena's secret was the worm in the bud, the skele- 
ton in the closet. 

" He says that he loves me. He does love me. 



76 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

Would he love me, if he knew ? " She stood be- 
fore an oval mirror brought from France by one 
of Warwick's wife's ancestors, and regarded her 
image with a coldly critical eye. She was as little 
vain as any of her sex who are endowed with 
beauty. She tried to place herself, in thus pass- 
ing upon her own claims to consideration, in the 
hostile attitude of society toward her hidden dis- 
ability. There was no mark upon her brow to 
brand her as less pure, less innocent, less desirable, 
less worthy to be loved, than these proud women 
of the past who had admired themselves in this 
old mirror. 

" I think a man might love me for myself," she 
murmured pathetically, " and if he loved me truly, 
that he would marry me. If he would not marry 
me, then it would be because he did n't love me. 
I '11 tell George my secret. If he leaves me, then 
he does not love me." 

But this resolution vanished into thin air before 
it was fully formulated. The secret was not hers 
alone ; it involved her brother's position, to whom 
she owed everything, and in less degree the future 
of her little nephew, whom she had learned to love 
so well. She had the choice of but two courses of 
action, to marry Tryon or to dismiss him. The 
thought that she might lose him made him seem 
only more dear ; to think that he might leave her 
made her sick at heart. In one week she was 
bound to give him an answer ; he was more likely 
to ask for it at their next meeting. 



IX 

DOUBTS AND FEAES 

Rena's heart was too heavy with these misgiv- 
ings for her to keep them to herself. On the 
morning after the conversation with Try on in 
which she had promised him an answer within a 
week, she went into her brother's study, where he 
usually spent an hour after breakfast before going 
to his office. He looked up amiably from the 
book before him and read trouble in her face. 

" Well, Rena, dear," he asked with a smile, 
" what 's the matter ? Is there anything you 
want — money, or what ? I should like to have 
Aladdin's lamp — though I'd hardly need it — 
that you might have no wish unsatisfied." 

He had found her very backward in asking for 
things that she needed. Generous with his means, 
he thought nothing too good for her. Her success 
had gratified his pride, and justified his course in 
taking her under his protection. 

" Thank you, John. You give me already more 
than I need. It is something else, John. George 
wants me to say when I will marry him. I am 
afraid to marry him, without telling him. If he 
should find out afterwards, he might cast me off. 



78 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

or cease to love me. If he did not know it, I 
should be forever thinking of what he would do if 
he should find it out ; or, if I should die without 
his having learned it, I should not rest easy in 
my grave for thinking of what he would have 
done if he had found it out." 

Warwick's smile gave place to a grave expression 
at this somewhat comprehensive statement. He 
rose and closed the door carefully, lest some one 
of the servants might overhear the conversation. 
More liberally endowed than Rena with imagina- 
tion, and not without a vein of sentiment, he had 
nevertheless a practical side that outweighed them 
both. With him, the problem that oppressed his 
sister had been in the main a matter of argument, 
of self-conviction. Once persuaded that he had 
certain rights, or ought to have them, by virtue of 
the laws of nature, in defiance of the customs of 
mankind, he had promptly sought to enjoy them. 
This he had been able to do by simply concealing 
his antecedents and making the most of his oppor- 
tunities, with no troublesome qualms of conscience 
whatever. But he had already perceived, in their 
brief intercourse, that Rena's emotions, while less 
easily stirred, touched a deeper note than his, and 
dwelt upon it with greater intensity than if they 
had been spread over the larger field to which a 
more ready sympathy would have supplied so many 
points of access ; — hers was a deep and silent cur- 
rent flowing between the narrow walls of a self- 
contained life, his the spreading river that ran 



DOUBTS AND FEARS 79 

through a pleasant landscape. Warwick's imagi- 
nation, however, enabled him to put himself in touch 
with her mood and recognize its bearings upon her 
conduct. He would have preferred her taking the 
practical point of view, to bring her round to which 
he perceived would be a matter of diplomacy. 

" How long have these weighty thoughts been 
troubling your small head ? " he asked with assumed 
lightness. 

" Since he asked me last night to name our 
wedding day." 

" My dear child," continued Warwick, " you take 
too tragic a view of life. Marriage is a reciprocal 
arrangement, by which the contracting parties give 
love for love, care for keeping, faith for faith. It 
is a matter of the future, not of the past. What 
a poor soul it is that has not some secret chamber, 
sacred to itself ; where one can file away the things 
others have no right to know, as well as things that 
one himself would fain forget ! We are under no 
moral obligation to inflict upon others the history 
of our past mistakes, our wayward thoughts, our 
secret sins, our desperate hopes, or our heart- 
breaking disappointments. Still less are we bound 
to bring out from this secret chamber the dusty 
record of our ancestry. 

' Let the dead past bury its dead.' 

George Tryon loves you for yourself alone; it is 
not your ancestors that he seeks to marry." 

" But would he marry me if he knew ? " she 
persisted. 



80 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

Warwick paused for reflection. He would have 
preferred to argue the question in a general way, 
but felt the necessity of satisfying her scruples, as 
far as might be. He had liked Try on from the 
very beginning of their acquaintance. In all their 
intercourse, which had been very close for several 
months, he had been impressed by the young man's 
sunny temper, his straightforwardness, his intellec- 
tual honesty. Tryon's deference to Warwick as 
the elder man had very naturally proved an attrac- 
tion. Whether this friendship would have stood 
the test of utter frankness about his own past was 
a merely academic speculation with which Warwick 
did not trouble himself. With his sister the ques- 
tion had evidently become a matter of conscience, 
— a difficult subject with which to deal in a per- 
son of Rena's temperament. 

" My dear sister," he replied, " why should he 
know ? We have n't asked him for his pedigree ; 
we don't care to know it. If he cares for ours, he 
should ask for it, and it would then be time enough 
to raise the question. You love him, I imagine, 
and wish to make him happy ? " 

It is the highest wish of the woman who loves. 
The enamored man seeks his own happiness ; the 
loving woman finds no sacrifice too great for the 
loved one. The fiction of chivalry made man serve 
woman ; the fact of human nature makes woman 
happiest when serving where she loves. 

" Yes, oh, yes," Rena exclaimed with fervor, 
clasping her hands unconsciously. " I 'm afraid 



DOUBTS AND FEARS 81 

he 'd be unhappy if he knew, and it would make me 
miserable to think him unhappy." 

" Well, then," said Warwick, " suppose we 
should tell him our secret and put ourselves in his 
power, and that he should then conclude that he 
could n't marry you ? Do you imagine he would be 
any happier than he is now, or than if he should 
never know?" 

Ah, no ! she could not think so. One could 
not tear love out of one 's heart without pain and 
suffering. 

There was a knock at the door. Warwick 
opened it to the nurse, who stood with little Albert 
in her arms. 

" Please, suh," said the girl, with a curtsy, " de 
baby 's be'n cryin' an' frettin' fer Miss Rena, an' 
I 'lowed she mought want me ter fetch 'im, ef it 
would n't 'sturb her." 

" Give me the darling," exclaimed Rena, coming 
forward and taking the child from the nurse. " It 
wants its auntie. Come to its auntie, bless its 
little heart ! " 

Little Albert crowed with pleasure and put up 
his pretty mouth for a kiss. Warwick found the 
sight a pleasant one. If he could but quiet his 
sister's troublesome scruples, he might erelong see 
her fondling beautiful children of her own. Even 
if Rena were willing to risk her happiness, and he 
to endanger his position, by a quixotic frankness, 
the future of his child must not be compromised. 

" You would n't want to make George unhappy," 



82 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

Warwick resumed when the nurse retired. " Very 
well ; would you not be willing, for his sake, to keep 
a secret — your secret and mine, and that of the 
innocent child in your arms ? Would you involve 
all of us in difficulties merely to secure your own 
peace of mind ? Does n't such a course seem just 
the least hit selfish ? Think the matter over from 
that point of view, and we '11 speak of it later in the 
day. I shall be with George all the morning, and 
I may be able, by a little management, to find out 
his views on the subject of birth and family, and 
all that. Some men are very liberal, and love is a 
great leveler. I '11 sound him, at any rate." 

He kissed the baby and left Rena to her own 
reflections, to which his presentation of the case had 
given a new turn. It had never before occurred to 
her to regard silence in the light of self-sacrifice. 
It had seemed a sort of sin ; her brother's argu- 
ment made of it a virtue. It was not the first 
time, nor the last, that right and wrong had been 
a matter of view-point. 

Tryon himself furnished the opening for War- 
wick 's proposed examination. The younger man 
could not long remain silent upon the subject upper- 
most in his mind. " I am anxious, John," he said, 
"to have Rowena name the happiest day of my 
life — our wedding day. When the trial in Edge- 
combe County is finished, I shall have no further 
business here, and shall be ready to leave for home. 
I should like to take my bride with me, and surprise 
my mother." 



DOUBTS AND FEARS 83 

Mothers, thought Warwick, are likely to prove 
inquisitive about their sons' wives, especially when 
taken unawares in matters of such importance. 
This seemed a good time to test the liberality of 
Tryon's views, and to put forward a shield for his 
sister's protection. 

" Are you sure, George, that your mother will 
find the surprise agreeable when you bring home a 
bride of whom you know so little and your mother 
nothing at all? " 

Tryon had felt that it would be best to surprise 
his mother. She would need only to see Rena to 
approve of her, but she was so far prejudiced in 
favor of Blanche Leary that it woidd be wisest to 
present the argument after having announced the 
irrevocable conclusion. Rena herself would be a 
complete justification for the accomplished deed. 

" I think you ought to know, George," continued 
Warwick, without waiting for a reply to his ques- 
tion, " that my sister and I are not of an old family, 
or a rich family, or a distinguished family ; that 
she can bring you nothing but herself; that we 
have no connections of which you could boast, and 
no relatives to whom we should be glad to introduce 
you. You must take us for ourselves alone — we 
are new people." 

" My dear John," replied the young man 
warmly, " there is a great deal of nonsense about 
families. If a man is noble and brave and 
strong, if a woman is beautiful and good and true, 
what matters it about his or her ancestry ? If an 



84 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

old family can give them these things, then it is 
valuable ; if they possess them without it, then of 
what use is it, except as a source of empty pride, 
which they would be better without ? If all new 
families were like yours, there would be no advan- 
tage in belonging to an old one. All I care to 
know of Rowena's family is that she is your sister ; 
and you '11 pardon me, old fellow, if I add that she 
hardly needs even you, — she carries the stamp of 
her descent upon her face and in her heart." 

" It makes me glad to hear you speak in that 
way," returned Warwick, delighted by the young 
man's breadth and earnestness. 

" Oh, I mean every word of it," replied Tryon. 
" Ancestors, indeed, for Rowena ! I will tell you 
a family secret, John, to prove how little I care for 
ancestors. My maternal great-great-grandfather, a 
hundred and fifty years ago, was hanged, drawn, 
and quartered for stealing cattle across the Scot- 
tish border. How is that for a pedigree ? Behold 
in me the lineal descendant of a felon ! " 

Warwick felt much relieved at this avowal. 
His own statement had not touched the vital point 
involved ; it had been at the best but a half-truth ; 
but Tryon's magnanimity would doubtless protect 
Rena from any close inquiry concerning her past. 
It even occurred to Warwick for a moment that 
he might safely disclose the secret to Tryon ; but 
an appreciation of certain facts of history and 
certain traits of human nature constrained him 
to put the momentary thought aside. It was a 



DOUBTS AND FEARS 85 

great relief, however, to imagine that Tryon might 
think lightly of this thing that he need never 
know. 

" Well, Rena," he said to his sister when he 
went home at noon : " I 've sounded George." 

" What did he say ? " she asked eagerly. 

" I told him we were people of no family, and 
that we had no relatives that we were proud of. 
He said he loved you for yourself, and would 
never ask you about your ancestry." 

" Oh, I am so glad ! " exclaimed Rena joyfully. 
This report left her very happy for about three 
hours, or until she began to analyze carefully her 
brother's account of what had been said. War- 
wick's statement had not been specific, — he had 
not told Tryon the, thing. George's reply, in tura, 
had been a mere generality. The concrete fact 
that oppressed her remained unrevealed, and her 
doubt was still unsatisfied. 

Rena was occupied with this thought when her 
lover next came to see her. Tryon came up the 
sanded walk from the gate and spoke pleasantly 
to the nurse, a good-looking yellow girl who was 
seated on the front steps, playing with little 
Albert. He took the boy from her arms, and 
she went to call Miss Warwick. 

Rena came out, followed by the nurse, who 
offered to take the child. 

" Never mind, Mirny, leave him with me," said 
Tryon. 

The nurse walked discreetly over into the gar- 



86 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

den, remaining within call, but beyond the hear- 
ing of conversation in an ordinary tone. 

" Rena, darling," said her lover, " when shall 
it be ? Surely you won't ask me to wait a week. 
Why, that 's a lifetime ! " 

Rena was struck by a brilliant idea. She 
would test her lover. Love was a very powerful 
force ; she had found it the greatest, grandest, 
sweetest thing in the world. Tryon had said that 
he loved her ; he had said scarcely anything else 
for several weeks, surely nothing else worth re- 
membering. She would test his love by a hypo- 
thetical question. 

" You say you love me," she said, glancing at 
him with a sad thoughtfulness in her large dark 
eyes. " How much do you love me ? " 

" I love you all one can love. True love has no 
degrees ; it is all or nothing ! " 

"Would you love me," she asked, with an air 
of coquetry that masked her concern, pointing 
toward the girl in the shrubbery, "if I were 
Albert's nurse yonder ? " 

" If you were Albert's nurse," he replied, with 
a joyous laugh, " he would have to find another 
within a week, for within a week we should be 
married." 

The answer seemed to fit the question, but in 
fact, Tryon's mind and Rena's did not meet. That 
two intelligent persons should each attach a differ- 
ent meaning to so simple a form of words as 
Rena's question was the best ground for her mis- 



DOUBTS AND FEARS 87 

giving with regard to the marriage. But love 
blinded her. She was anxious to be convinced- 
She interpreted the meaning of his speech by her 
own thought and by the ardor of his glance, and 
was satisfied with the answer. 

" And now, darling," pleaded Tryon, " will you 
not fix the day that shall make me happy ? I 
shall be ready to go away in three weeks. Will 
you go with me ? " 

" Yes," she answered, in a tumult of joy. She 
would never need to tell him her secret now. It 
would make no difference with hird, so far as she 
was concerned ; and she had no right to reveal her 
brother's secret. She was willing to bury the past 
in forgetfulness, now that she knew it would have 
no interest for her lover. 



X 

THE DREAM 

The marriage was fixed for the thirtieth of the 
month, immediately after which Tryon and his 
bride were to set out for North Carolina. War- 
wick would have liked it much if Tryon had 
lived in South Carolina ; but the location of his 
North Carolina home was at some distance from 
Patesville, with which it had no connection by 
steam or rail, and indeed lay altogether out of the 
line of travel to Patesville. Rena had no acquaint- 
ance with people of social standing in North Car- 
olina; and with the added maturity and charm 
due to her improved opportunities, it was unlikely 
that any former resident of Patesville who might 
casually meet her would see in the elegant young 
matron from South Carolina more than a passing 
resemblance to a poor girl who had once lived in an 
obscure part of the old town. It would of course 
be necessary for Rena to keep away from Pates- 
ville ; save for her mother's sake, she would hardly 
be tempted to go back. 

On the twentieth of the month, Warwick set 
out with Tryon for the county seat of the adjoin- 
ing county, to try one of the lawsuits which had 



THE DREAM 89 

required Tryon's presence in South Carolina for 
so long a time. Their destination was a day's 
drive from Clarence, behind a good horse, and the 
trial was expected to last a week. 

" This week will seem like a year," said Tryon 
ruefully, the evening before their departure, " but 
I '11 write every day, and shall expect a letter as 
often." 

" The mail goes only twice a week, George," 
replied Rena. 

" Then I shall have three letters in each mail." 

Warwick and Tryon were to set out in the cool 
of the morning, after an early breakfast. Eena 
was up at daybreak that she might preside at the 
breakfast-table and bid the travelers good-by. 

" John," said Rena to her brother in the morn- 
ing, " I dreamed last night that mother was ill." 

" Dreams, you know, Rena," answered War- 
wick lightly, "go by contraries. Yours undoubt- 
edly signifies that our mother, God bless her 
simple soul ! is at the present moment enjoying 
her usual perfect health. She was never sick in 
her life." 

For a few months after leaving Patesville with 
her brother, Rena had suffered tortures of home- 
sickness ; those who have felt it know the pang. 
The severance of old ties had been abrupt and 
complete. At the school where her brother had 
taken her, there had been nothing to relieve the 
strangeness of her surroundings — no schoolmate 
from her own town, no relative or friend of the 



90 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

family near by. Even the compensation of human 
sympathy was in a measure denied her, for Rena 
was too fresh from her prison-house to doubt that 
sympathy would fail before the revelation of 
the secret the consciousness of which oppressed 
her at that time like a nightmare. It was not 
strange that Rena, thus isolated, should have been 
prostrated by homesickness for several weeks 
after leaving Patesville. When the paroxysm 
had passed, there followed a dull pain, which grad- 
ually subsided into a resignation as profound, in 
its way, as had been her longing for home. She 
loved, she suffered, with a quiet intensity of which 
her outward demeanor gave no adequate expres- 
sion. From some ancestral source she had derived 
a strain of the passive fatalism by which alone 
one can submit uncomplainingly to the inevitable. 
By the same token, when once a thing had been 
decided, it became with her a finality, which only 
some extraordinary stress of emotion could dis- 
turb. She had acquiesced in her brother's plan ; 
for her there was no withdrawing ; her homesick- 
ness was an incidental thing which must be en- 
dured, as patiently as might be, until time should 
have brought a measure of relief. 

Warwick had made provision for an occasional 
letter from Patesville, by leaving with his mother a 
number of envelopes directed to his address. She 
could have her letters written, inclose them in 
these envelopes, and deposit them in the post- 
office with her own hand. Thus the place of War- 



THE DREAM 91 

wick's residence would remain within her own 
knowledge, and his secret would not be placed at 
the mercy of any wandering Patesvillian who 
might perchance go to that part of South Carolina. 
By this simple means Rena had kept as closely in 
touch with her mother as Warwick had considered 
prudent ; any closer intercourse was not consistent 
with their present station in life. 

The night after Warwick and Tryon had rid- 
den away, Rena dreamed again that her mother 
was ill. Better taught people than she, in regions 
more enlightened than the South Carolina of that 
epoch, are disturbed at times by dreams. Mis' 
Molly had a profound faith in them. If God, in 
ancient times, had spoken to men in visions of the 
night, what easier way could there be for Him to 
convey his meaning to people of all ages ? Science, 
which has shattered many an idol and destroyed 
many a delusion, has made but slight inroads 
upon the shadowy realm of dreams. For Mis' 
Molly, to whom science would have meant nothing 
and psychology would have been a meaningless 
term, the land of dreams was carefully mapped 
and bounded. Each dream had some special sig- 
nificance, or was at least susceptible of classification 
under some significant head. Dreams, as a general 
rule, went by contraries ; but a dream three times 
repeated was a certain portent of the thing de- 
fined. Rena's few years of schooling at Pates- 
ville and her months at Charleston had scarcely dis- 
turbed these hoary superstitions which lurk in the 



92 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

dim corners of the brain. No lady in Clarence, per- 
haps, would have remained undisturbed by a vivid 
dream, three times repeated, of some event bear- 
ing materially upon her own life. 

The first repetition of a dream was decisive of 
nothing, for two dreams meant no more than one. 
The power of the second lay in the suspense, the 
uncertainty, to which it gave rise. Two doubled 
the chance of a third. The day following this 
second dream was an anxious one for Kena. She 
could not for an instant dismiss her mother from 
her thoughts, which were filled too with a certain 
self-reproach. She had left her mother alone; if 
her mother were really ill, there was no one at home 
to tend her with loving care. This feeling grew 
in force, until by nightfall Rena had become very 
unhappy, and went to bed with the most dismal 
forebodings. In this state of mind, it is not sur- 
prising that she now dreamed that her mother was 
lying at the point of death, and that she cried out 
with heart-rending pathos : — 

" Rena, my darlin', why did you forsake yo'r 
pore old mother ? Come back to me, honey ; I '11 
die ef I don't see you soon." 

The stress of subconscious emotion engendered 
by the dream was powerful enough to wake Rena, 
and her mother's utterance seemed to come to her 
with the force of a fateful warning and a great 
reproach. Her mother was sick and needed her, 
and would die if she did not come. She felt that 
she must see her mother, — it would be almost 



THE DREAM 93 

like murder to remain away from her under such 
circumstances. 

After breakfast she went into the business part 
of the town and inquired at what time a train 
would leave that would take her toward Patesville. 
Since she had come away from the town, a rail- 
road had been opened by which the long river 
voyage might be avoided, and, making allowance 
for slow trains and irregular connections, the town 
of Patesville could be reached by an all-rail route 
in about twelve hours. Calling at the post-office 
for the family mail, she found there a letter from 
her mother, which she tore open in great excite- 
ment. It was written in an unpracticed hand and 
badly spelled, and was in effect as follows : — 

My dear Daughter, — I take my pen in hand 
to let you know that I am not very well. I have 
had a kind of misery in my side for two weeks, 
with palpitations of the heart, and I have been in 
bed for three days. I 'm feeling mighty poorly, but 
Dr. Green says that I '11 get over it in a few days. 
Old Aunt Zilphy is staying with me, and looking 
after things tolerably well. I hope this will find 
you and John enjoying good health. Give my 
love to John, and I hope the Lord will bless him 
and you too. Cousin Billy Oxendine has had a 
rising on his neck, and has had to have it lanced. 
Mary B. has another young one, a boy this time. 
Old man Tom Johnson was killed last week while 
trying to whip black Jim Brown, who lived down 



94 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

on the Wilmington Road. Jim has run away. 
There has been a big freshet in the river, and it 
looked at one time as if the new bridge would be 
washed away. 

Frank comes over every day or two and asks 
about you. He says to tell you that he don't be- 
lieve you are coming back any more, but you are 
to remember him, and that foolishness he said 
about bringing you back from the end of the 
world with his mule and cart. He 's very good to 
me, and brings over shavings and kindling-wood, 
and made me a new well-bucket for nothing. It 's 
a comfort to talk to him about you, though I 
have n't told him where you are living. 

I hope this will find you and John both well, 
and doing well. I should like to see you, but if 
it 's the Lord's will that I should n't, I shall be 
thankful anyway that you have done what was 
the best for yourselves and your children, and that 
I have given you up for your own good. 
Your affectionate mother, 

Mary Walden. 

Rena shed tears over this simple letter, which, 
to her excited imagination, merely confirmed the 
warning of her dream. At the date of its writing 
her mother had been sick in bed, with the symp- 
toms of a serious illness. She had no nurse but a 
purblind old woman. Three days of progressive 
illness had evidently been quite sufficient to reduce 
her parent to the condition indicated by the third 



THE DREAM 95 

dream. The thought that her mother might die 
without the presence of any one who loved her 
pierced Rena's heart like a knife and lent wings 
to her feet. She wished for the enchanted horse 
of which her brother had read to her so many- 
years before on the front piazza of the house be- 
hind the cedars, that she might fly through the air 
to her dying mother's side. She determined to go 
at once to Patesville. 

Returning home, she wrote a letter to Warwick 
inclosing their mother's letter, and stating that 
she had dreamed an alarming dream for three 
nights in succession ; that she had left the house in 
charge of the servants and gone to Patesville ; and 
that she would return as soon as her mother was 
out of danger. 

To her lover she wrote that she had been called 
away to visit a sick-bed, and would return very 
soon, perhaps by the time he got back to Clarence. 
These letters Rena posted on her way to the train, 
which she took at five o'clock in the afternoon. 
This would bring her to Patesville early in the 
morning of the following day. 



XI 

A LETTER AND A JOURNEY 

War has been called the court of last resort. 
A lawsuit may with equal aptness be compared to 
a battle — the parallel might be drawn very closely 
all along the line. First we have the casus belli, 
the cause of action ; then the various protocols and 
proclamations and general orders, by way of pleas, 
demurrers, and motions ; then the preliminary 
skirmishes at the trial table ; and then the final 
struggle, in which might is quite as likely to pre- 
vail as right, victory most often resting with the 
strongest battalions, and truth and justice not 
seldom overborne by the weight of odds upon the 
other side. 

The lawsuit which Warwick and Tryon had 
gone to try did not, however, reach this ultimate 
stage, but, after a three days' engagement, resulted 
in a treaty of peace. The case was compromised 
and settled, and Tryon and Warwick set out on 
their homeward drive. They stopped at a farm- 
house at noon, and while at table saw the stage- 
coach from the town they had just left, bound for 
their own destination. In the mail-bag under the 
driver's seat were Rena's two letters ; they had 



A LETTER AND A JOURNEY 97 

been delivered at the town in the morning, and 
immediately remailed to Clarence, in accordance 
with orders left at the post-office the evening be- 
fore. Tryon and Warwick drove leisurely home- 
ward through the pines, all unconscious of the fate- 
ful squares of white paper moving along the road 
a few miles before them, which a mother's yearning 
and a daughter's love had thrown, like the apple of 
discord, into the narrow circle of their happiness. 

They reached Glarence at four o'clock. War- 
wick got down from the buggy at his office. Tryon 
drove on to his hotel, to make a hasty toilet before 
visiting his sweetheart. 

Warwick glanced at his mail, tore open the 
envelope addressed in his sister's handwriting, and 
read the contents with something like dismay.- 
She had gone away on the eve of her wedding, her 
lover knew not where, to be gone no one knew 
how long, on a mission which could not be frankly 
disclosed. A dim foreboding of disaster flashed 
across his mind. He thrust the letter into his 
pocket, with others yet unopened, and started 
toward his home. Reaching the gate, he paused a 
moment and then walked on past the house. Tryon 
would probably be there in a few minutes, and 
he did not care to meet him without first having 
had the opportunity for some moments of reflec- 
tion. He must fix upon some line of action in this 
emergency. 

Meanwhile Tryon had reached his hotel and 
opened his mail. The letter from Rena was read 



98 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

first, with profound disappointment. He had 
really made concessions in the settlement of that 
lawsuit — had yielded several hundred dollars of 
his just dues, in order that he might get back to 
Rena three days earlier. Now he must cool his 
heels in idleness for at least three days before she 
would return. It was annoying, to say the least. 
He wished to know where she had gone, that he 
might follow her and stay near her until she should 
be ready to come back. He might ask Warwick — 
no, she might have had some good reason for not 
having mentioned her destination. She had prob- 
ably gone to visit some of the poor relations of 
whom her brother had spoken so frankly, and she 
would doubtless prefer that he should not see her 
amid any surroundings but the best. Indeed, he 
did not know that he would himself care to endan- 
ger, by suggestive comparisons, the fine aureole of 
superiority that surrounded her. She represented 
in her adorable person and her pure heart the 
finest flower of the finest race that God had ever 
made — the supreme effort of creative power, than 
which there could be no finer. The flower would 
soon be his ; why should he care to dig up the soil 
in which it grew ? 

Tryon went on opening his letters. There were 
several bills and circulars, and then a letter from 
his mother, of which he broke the seal : — 

My dearest George, — This leaves us well. 
Blanche is still with me, and we are impatiently 



A LETTER AND A JOURNEY 99 

awaiting your return. In your absence she seems 
almost like a daughter to me. She joins me in 
the hope that your lawsuits are progressing favor- 
ably, and that you will be with us soon. . . . 

On your way home, if it does not keep you 
away from us too long, would it not be well for 
you to come by way of Patesville, and find out 
whether there is any prospect of our being able 
to collect our claim against old Mr. Duncan Mc- 
Swayne's estate ? You must have taken the papers 
with you, along with the rest, for I do not find 
them here. Things ought to be settled enough now 
for people to realize on some of their securities. 
Your grandfather always believed the note was 
good, and meant to try to collect it, but the war 
interfered. He said to me, before he died, that if 
the note was ever collected, he woidd use the money 
to buy a wedding present for your wife. Poor 
father ! he is dead and gone to heaven ; but I am 
sure that even there he would be happier if he 
knew the note was paid and the money used as he 
intended. 

If you go to Patesville, call on my cousin, Dr. 
Ed. Green, and tell him who you are. Give him 
my love. I have n't seen him for twenty years. 
He used to be very fond of the ladies, a very gal- 
lant man. He can direct you to a good lawyer, 
no doubt. Hoping to see you soon, 
Your loving mother, 

Elizabeth Trton. 

P. S. Blanche joins me in love to you. 



100 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDAKS 

This affectionate and motherly letter did not 
give Tryon unalloyed satisfaction. He was glad 
to hear that his mother was well, but he had 
hoped that Blanche Leary might have finished her 
visit by this time. The reasonable inference from 
the letter was that Blanche meant to await his 
return. Her presence would spoil the fine roman- 
tic flavor of the surprise he had planned for his 
mother ; it would never do to expose his bride to 
an unannounced meeting with the woman whom he 
had tacitly rejected. There would be one advan- 
tage in such a meeting : the comparison of the 
two women would be so much in Rena's favor 
that his mother could not hesitate for a moment 
between them. The situation, however, would 
have elements of constraint, and he did not care 
to expose either Rena or Blanche to any disagree- 
able contingency. It would be better to take his 
wife on a wedding trip, and notify his mother, be- 
fore he returned home, of his marriage. In the 
extremely improbable case that she should disap- 
prove his choice after having seen his wife, the ice 
would at least have been broken before his arrival 
at home. 

"By Jove!" he exclaimed suddenly, striking 
his knee with his hand, " why should n't I run up 
to Patesville while Rena 's gone ? I can leave here 
at five o'clock, and get there some time to-morrow 
morning. I can transact my business during the 
day, and get back the day after to-morrow ; for 
Rena might return ahead of time, just as we did, and 



A LETTER AND A JOURNEY 101 

I shall want to be here when she comes ; I 'd rather 
wait a year for a legal opinion on a doubtful old 
note than to lose one day with niy love. The 
train goes in twenty minutes. My bag is already 
packed. I '11 just drop a line to George and tell 
him where I 've gone." 

He put Rena's letter into his breast pocket, and 
turning to his trunk, took from it a handful of 
papers relating to the claim in reference to which 
he was going to Patesville. These he thrust into 
the same pocket with Rena's letter ; he wished to 
read both letter and papers while on the train. It 
would be a pleasure merely to hold the letter before 
his eyes and look at tBe lines traced by her hand. 
The papers he wished to study, for the more prac- 
tical purpose of examining into the merits of his 
claim against the estate of Duncan McSwayne. 

When Warwick reached home, he inquired if 
Mr. Tryon had called. 

" No, suh," answered the nurse, to whom he had 
put the question ; "he ain't be'n here yet, suh." 

Warwick was surprised and much disturbed. 

" De baby 's be'n cryin' for Miss Rena," sug- 
gested the nurse, " an' I s'pec' he 'd like to see you, 
suh. Shall I fetch 'im?" 

" Yes, bring him to me." 

He took the child in his arms and went out upon 
the piazza. Several porch pillows lay invitingly 
near. He pushed them toward the steps with his 
foot, sat down upon one, and placed little Albert 
upon another. He was scarcely seated when a 



102 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

messenger from the hotel came up the walk from 
the sate and handed him a note. At the same 
moment he heard the long shriek of the afternoon 
train leaving the station on the opposite side of the 
town. 

He tore the envelope open anxiously, read the 
note, smiled a sickly smile, and clenched the paper 
in his hand unconsciously. There was nothing he 
could do. The train had gone ; there was no 
telegraph to Patesville, and no letter could leave 
Clarence for twenty-four hours. The best laid 
schemes go wrong at times — the stanchest ships 
are sometimes wrecked, or skirt the breakers 
perilously. Life is a sea, full of strange currents 
and uncharted reefs — whoever leaves the traveled 
path must run the danger of destruction. War- 
wick was a lawyer, however, and accustomed to 
balance probabilities. 

" He may easily be in Patesville a day or two 
without meeting her. She will spend most of her 
time at mother's bedside, and he will be occupied 
with his own affairs." 

If Try on should meet her — well, he was very- 
much in love, and he had spoken very nobly of 
birth and blood. Warwick would have preferred, 
nevertheless, that Tryon 's theories should not be 
put to this particular test. Rena's scruples had so 
far been successfully combated ; the question would 
be opened again, and the situation unnecessarily 
complicated, if Tryon should meet Rena in Pates- 
ville. 



A LETTER AND A JOURNEY 103 

" Will lie or will lie not ? " he asked himself. 
He took a coin from his pocket and spun it upon 
the floor. " Heads, he sees her ; tails, he does 
not." 

The coin spun swiftly and steadily, leaving upon 
the eye the impression of a revolving sphere. Little 
Albert, left for a moment to his own devices, had 
crept behind his father and was watching the whirl- 
ing disk with great pleasure. He felt that he would 
like to possess this interesting object. The coin 
began to move more slowly, and was wabbling to its 
fall, when the child stretched forth his chubby fist 
and caught it ere it touched the floor. 



XII 

TRYON GOES TO PATESVILLE 
1 

Tryon arrived in the early morning and put 
up at the Patesville Hotel, a very comfortable inn. 
After a bath, breakfast, and a visit to the barber- 
shop, he inquired of the hotel clerk the way to the 
office of Dr. Green, his mother 's cousin. 

" On the corner, sir," answered the clerk, " by the 
market-house, just over the drugstore. The doctor 
drove past here only half an hour ago. You '11 
probably catch him in his office." 

Tryon found the office without difficulty. He 
climbed the stair, but found no one in except a 
young colored man seated in the outer office, who 
rose promptly as Tryon entered. 

" No, suh," replied the man to Tryon's question, 
" he ain't hyuh now. He 's gone out to see a 
patient, suh, but he '11 be back soon. Won't you 
set down in de private office an' wait fer 'im, suh ? " 

Tryon had not slept well during his journey, and 
felt somewhat fatigued. Through the open door 
of the next room he saw an inviting armchair, 
with a window at one side, and upon the other a 
table strewn with papers and magazines. 

" Yes," he answered, " I '11 wait." 



TRYON GOES TO PATESVILLE 105 

He entered the private office, sank into the arm- 
chair, and looked out of the window upon the square 
below. The view was mildly interesting. The old 
brick market-house with the tower was quite pictur- 
esque. On a wagon-scale at one end the public 
weighmaster was weighing a load of hay. In the 
booths under the wide arches several old negro 
women were frying fish on little charcoal stoves — 
the odor would have been appetizing to one who 
had not breakfasted. On the shady side stood half 
a dozen two-wheeled carts, loaded with lightwood 
and drawn by diminutive steers, or superannuated 
army mules branded on the flank with the cabalis- 
tic letters "C. S.A.," which represented a vanished 
dream, or " U. S. A.," which, as any negro about 
the market-house would have borne witness, signified 
a very concrete fact. Now and then a lady or gen- 
tleman passed with leisurely step — no one ever hur- 
ried in Patesville — or some poor white sandhiller 
slouched listlessly along toward store or bar-room. 

Tryon mechanically counted the slabs of ginger- 
bread on the nearest market-stall, and calculated 
the cubical contents of several of the meagre loads 
of wood. Having exhausted the view, he turned 
to the table at his elbow and picked up a medical 
journal, in which he read first an account of a 
marvelous surgical operation. Turning the leaves 
idly, he came upon an article by a Southern writer, 
upon the perennial race problem that has vexed 
the country for a century. The writer maintained 
that owing to a special tendency of the negro blood, 



106 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

however diluted, to revert to the African type, any- 
future amalgamation of the white and black races, 
which foolish and wicked Northern negrophiles 
predicted as the ultimate result of the new condi- 
tions confronting the South, would therefore be an 
ethnological impossibility ; for the smallest trace 
of negro blood would inevitably drag down the 
superior race to the level of the inferior, and reduce 
the fair Southland, already devastated by the hand 
of the invader, to the frightful level of Hayti, the 
awful example of negro incapacity. To forefend 
their beloved land, now doubly sanctified by the 
blood of her devoted sons who had fallen in the 
struggle to maintain her liberties and preserve her 
property, it behooved every true Southron to stand 
firm against the abhorrent tide of radicalism, to 
maintain the supremacy and purity of his all- 
pervading, all-conquering race, and to resist by 
every available means the threatened domination of 
an inferior and degraded people, who were set to 
rule hereditary freemen ere they had themselves 
scarce ceased to be slaves. 

When Tryon had finished the article, which 
seemed to him a well-considered argument, albeit 
a trifle bombastic, he threw the book upon the table. 
Finding the armchair wonderfully comfortable, and 
feeling the fatigue of his journey, he yielded to a 
drowsy impulse, leaned his head on the cushioned 
back of the chair, and fell asleep. According to 
the habit of youth, he dreamed, and pursuant to his 
own individual habit, he dreamed of Rena. They 



TRYON GOES TO PATESVILLE 107 

were walking in the moonlight, along the quiet road 
in front of her brother 's house. The air was 
redolent with the perfume of flowers. His arm 
was around her waist. He had asked her if she 
loved him, and was awaiting her answer in tremu- 
lous but confident expectation. She opened her lips 
to speak. The sound that came from them seemed 
to be : — 

" Is Dr. Green in ? No ? Ask him, when he comes 
back, please, to call at our house as soon as he can." 

Tryon was in that state of somnolence in which 
one may dream and yet be aware that one is 
dreaming, — the state where one, during a dream, 
dreams that one pinches one's self to be sure that 
one is not dreaming. He was therefore aware of a 
ringing quality about the words he had just heard 
that did not comport with the shadowy converse 
of a dream — an incongruity in the remark, too,* 
which marred the harmony of the vision. The 
shock was sufficient to disturb Tryon's slumber, 
and he struggled slowly back to consciousness. 
When fully awake, he thought he heard a light 
footfall descending the stairs. 

" Was there some one here ? " he inquired of 
the attendant in the outer office, who was visible 
through the open door. 

" Yas, suh," replied the boy, " a young cullud 
'oman wuz in jes' now, axin' fer de doctuh." 

Tryon felt a momentary touch of annoyance that 
a negro woman should have intruded herself into 
his dream at its most interesting point. Neverthe- 



108 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

less, the voice had been so real, his imagination had 
reproduced with such exactness the dulcet tones so 
dear to him, that he turned his head involuntarily 
and looked out of the window. He could just see 
the flutter of a woman's skirt disappearing around 
the corner. 

A moment later the doctor came bustling in, — 
a plump, rosy man of fifty or more, with a frank, 
open countenance and an air of genial good nature. 
Such a doctor, Tryon fancied, ought to enjoy a 
wide popularity. His mere presence would suggest 
life and hope and healthfulness. 

" My dear boy," exclaimed the doctor cordially, 
after Tryon had introduced himself, " I 'm de- 
lighted to meet you — or any one of the old blood. 
Your mother and I were sweethearts, long ago, 
when we both wore pinafores, and went to see our 
grandfather at Christmas ; and I met her more 
than once, and paid her more than one compliment, 
after she had grown to be a fine young woman. 
You 're like her, too, but not quite so handsome — 
you 've more of what I suppose to be the Tryon 
favor, though I never met your father. So one of 
old Duncan McSwayne's notes went so far as that? 
Well, well, I don't know where you won't find 
them. One of them turned up here the other day 
from New York. 

" The man you want to see," he added later in 
the conversation, " is old Judge Straight. He 's 
getting somewhat stiff in the joints, but he knows 
more law, and more about the McSwayne estate, 



TRYON GOES TO PATESVILLE 109 

than any other two lawyers in town. If anybody 
can collect your claim, Judge Straight can. I '11 
send my boy Dave over to his office. Dave," he 
called to his attendant, " run over to Judge 
Straight's office and see if he 's there. 

" There was a freshet here a few weeks ago," 
he went on, when the colored man had departed, 
" and they had to open the flood-gates and let the 
water out of the mill pond, for if the dam had 
broken, as it did twenty years ago, it would have 
washed the pillars from under the judge's office 
and let it down in the creek, and " — 

" Jedge Straight ain't in de office jes' now, 
suh," reported the doctor's man Dave, from the 
head of the stairs. 

" Did you ask when he 'd be back ? " 

"No, suh, you didn't tell me ter, suh." 

" Well, now, go back and inquire. 
► " The niggers," he explained to Tryon, " are 
getting mighty trifling since they 've been freed. 
Before the war, that boy would have been around 
there and back before you could say Jack Robin- 
son; now, the lazy rascal takes his time just like 
a white man." 

Dave returned more promptly than from his 
first trip. " Jedge Straight 's dere now, suh," he 
said. " He 's done come in." 

" I '11 take you right around and introduce you," 
said the doctor, running on pleasantly, like a 
babbling brook. " I don't know whether the judge 
ever met your mother or not, but he knows a 



110 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

gentleman when he sees one, and will be glad to 
meet you and look after your affair. See to the 
patients, Dave, and say I '11 be back shortly, and 
don't forget any messages left for me. Look 
sharp, now ! You know your failing ! " 

They found Judge Straight in his office. He 
was seated by the rear window, and had fallen 
into a gentle doze — the air of Patesville was 
conducive to slumber. A visitor from some bus- 
tling city might have rubbed his eyes, on any but a 
market-day, and imagined the whole town asleep 
— that the people were somnambulists and did not 
know it. The judge, an old hand, roused himself 
so skillfully, at the sound of approaching footsteps, 
that his visitors could not guess but that he had 
been wide awake. He shook hands with the doctor, 
and acknowledged the introduction to Tryon with 
a rare old-fashioned courtesy, which the young man 
thought a very charming survival of the manners 
of a past and happier age. 

" No," replied the judge, in answer to a question 
by Dr. Green, " I never met his mother ; I was a 
generation ahead of her. I was at school with her 
father, however, fifty years ago — fifty years ago ! 
No doubt that seems to you a long time, young- 
gentleman ? " 

" It is a long time, sir," replied Tryon. " I 
must live more than twice as long as I have in 
order to cover it." 

" A long time, and a troubled time," sighed the 
judge. " I could wish that I might see this un- 



TRYON GOES TO PATESVILLE 111 

happy land at peace with itself before I die. 
Things are in a sad tangle ; I can't see the way- 
out. But the worst enemy has been slain, in spite 
of us. We are well rid of slavery." 

" But the negro we still have with us," re- 
marked the doctor, " for here comes my man 
Dave. What is it, Dave ? " he asked sharply, as 
the negro stuck his head in at the door. 

"Doctuh Green," he said, "I fuhgot ter tell 
you, suh, dat dat young 'oman wuz at de office 
agin jes' befo' you come in, an' said fer you to go 
right down an' see her mammy ez soon ez you 
could." 

" Ah, yes, and you 've just remembered it ! I 'm 
afraid you 're entirely too forgetful for a doctor's 
office. You forgot about old Mrs. Latimer, the 
other day, and when I got there she had almost 
choked to death. Now get back to the office, and 
remember, the next time you forget anything, I '11 
hire another boy ; remember that ! That boy's 
head," he remarked to his companions, after Dave 
had gone, " reminds me of nothing so much as a 
dried gourd, with a handful of cowpeas rattling 
around it, in lieu of gray matter. An old woman 
out in Redbank got a fishbone in her throat, the 
other day, and nearly choked to death before I got 
there. A white woman, sir, came very near losing 
her life because of a lazy, trifling negro ! " 

" I should think you would discharge him, sir," 
suggested Tryon. 

" What would be the use? " rejoined the doctor. 



112 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

" All negroes are alike, except that now and then 
there's a pretty woman along the border-line. 
Take this patient of mine, for instance, — I '11 call 
on her after dinner, her case is not serious, — thirty 
years ago she would have made any man turn his 
head to look at her. You know who I mean, 
don't you, judge ? " 

" Yes. I think so," said the judge promptly. 
"I 've transacted a little business for her now and 
then." 

" I don't know whether you 've seen the daugh- 
ter or not — I 'm sure you have n't for the past 
year or so, for she 's been away. But she 's in 
town now, and, by Jove, the girl is really beautiful. 
And I 'm a judge of beauty. Do you remember 
my wife thirty years ago, judge ? " 

" She was a very handsome woman, Ed," replied 
the other judicially. " If I had been twenty years 
younger, I should have cut you out." 

" You mean you would have tried. But as I 
was saying, this girl is a beauty ; I reckon we 
might guess where she got some of it, eh, Judge ? 
Human nature is human nature, but it 's a d — d 
shame that a man should beget a child like that 
and leave it to live the life open for a negro. If 
she had been born white, the young fellows would 
be tumbling over one another to get her. Her 
mother would have to look after her pretty closely 
as things are, if she stayed here ; but she dis- 
appeared mysteriously a year or two ago, and has 
been at the North, I 'm told, passing for white. 



, TRYON GOES TO PATESVILLE 113 

She '11 probably marry a Yankee ; he won't know 
any better, and it will serve him right — she 's 
only too white for them. She has a very striking 
figure, something on the Greek order, stately and 
slow-moving. She has the manners of a lady, too 
— a beautiful woman, if she is a nigger ! " 

" I quite agree with you, Ed," remarked the 
judge dryly, " that the mother had better look 
closely after the daughter." 

"Ah, no, judge," replied the other, with a flat- 
tered smile, " my admiration for beauty is purely 
abstract. Twenty-five years ago, when I was 
younger" — 

" When you were young," corrected the judge. 

" When you and I were younger," continued 
the doctor ingeniously, — " twenty-five years ago, I 
could not have answered for myself. But I would 
advise the girl to stay at the North, if she can. 
She 's certainly out of place around here." 

Tryon found the subject a little tiresome, and 
the doctor's enthusiasm not at all contagious. He 
could not possibly have been interested in a col- 
ored girl, under any circumstances, and he was 
engaged to be married to the most beautiful white 
woman on earth. To mention a negro woman in 
the same room where he was thinking of Rena 
seemed little short of profanation. His friend the 
doctor was a jovial fellow, but it was surely doubt- 
ful taste to refer to his wife in such a conversation. 
He was very glad when the doctor dropped the 
subject and permitted him to go more into detail 



114 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

about the matter which formed his business in 
Patesville. He took out of his pocket the papers 
concerning the McSwayne claim and laid them on 
the judge's desk. 

" You '11 find everything there, sir, — the note, 
the contract, and some correspondence that will 
give you the hang of the thing. Will you be able 
to look over them to-day ? I should like," he added 
a little nervously, " to go back to-morrow." 

" What ! " exclaimed Dr. Green vivaciously, 
" insult our town by staying only one day ? It 
won't be long enough to get acquainted with our 
young ladies. Patesville girls are famous for their 
beauty. But perhaps there 's a loadstone in South 
Carolina to draw you back ? Ah, you change color ! 
To my mind there's nothing finer than the ingenu- 
ous blush of youth. But we '11 spare you if you '11 
answer one question — is it serious? " 

" I 'm to be married in two weeks, sir," answered 
Tryon. The statement sounded very pleasant, in 
spite of the slight embarrassment caused by the 
inquiry. 

" Good boy ! " rejoined the doctor, taking his 
arm familiarly — they were both standing now. 
" You ought to have married a Patesville girl, but 
you people down towards the eastern counties sel- 
dom come this way, and we are evidently too late 
to catch you." 

" I '11 look your papers over this morning," said 
the judge, " and when I come from dinner will 
stop at the court house and examine the records 



TRYON GOES TO PATESVILLE 115 

and see whether there 's anything we can get hold 
of. If you '11 drop in around three or four o'clock, 
I may be able to give you an opinion." 

" Now, George," exclaimed the doctor, " we '11 
go back to the office for a spell, and then I '11 take 
you home with me to luncheon." 

Tryon hesitated. 

" Oh, you must come ! Mrs. Green would never 
forgive me if I didn't bring you. Strangers are 
rare birds in our society, and when they come we 
make them welcome. Our enemies may overturn 
our institutions, and try to put the bottom rail on 
top, but they cannot destroy our Southern hospi- 
tality. There are so many carpet-baggers and other 
social vermin creeping into the South, with the 
Yankees trying to force the niggers on us, that it 's 
a genuine pleasure to get acquainted with another 
real Southern gentleman, whom one can invite into 
one's house without fear of contamination, and be- 
fore whom one can express his feelings freely and 
be sure of perfect sympathy." 



XIII 

AN INJUDICIOUS PAYMENT 

When Judge Straight's visitors had departed, 
he took up the papers which had been laid loosely 
on the table as they were taken out of Tryon's breast- 
pocket, and commenced their perusal. There was 
a note for five hundred dollars, many years over- 
due, but not yet outlawed by lapse of time; a 
contract covering the transaction out of which the 
note had grown ; and several letters and copies of 
letters modifying the terms of the contract. The 
judge had glanced over most of the papers, and 
was getting well into the merits of the case, when 
he unfolded a letter which read as follows : — 

My dearest George, — I am going away 
for about a week, to visit the bedside of an old 
friend, who is very ill, and may not live. Do not 
be alarmed about me, for I shall very likely be 
back by the time you are. 

Yours lovingly, 

Rowena Warwick. 

The judge was unable to connect this letter with 
the transaction which formed the subject of his 



AN INJUDICIOUS PAYMENT 117 

examination. Age had dimmed his perceptions 
somewhat, and it was not until he had finished 
the letter, and read it over again, and noted the 
signature at the bottom a second time, that he 
perceived that the writing was in a woman's hand, 
that the ink was comparatively fresh, and that 
the letter was dated only a couple of days before. 
While he still held the sheet in his hand, it 
dawned upon him slowly that he held also one of 
the links in a chain of possible tragedy which he 
himself, he became uncomfortably aware, had had 
a hand in forging. 

" It is the Walden woman's daughter, as sure as 
fate ! Her name is Rena. Her brother goes by 
the name of Warwick. She has come to visit her 
sick mother. My young client, Green's relation, is 
her lover — is engaged to marry her — is in town, 
and is likely to meet her ! " 

The judge was so absorbed in the situation 
thus suggested that he laid the papers down and 
pondered for a moment the curious problem in- 
volved. He was quite aware that two races had 
not dwelt together, side by side, for nearly three 
hundred years, without mingling their blood in 
greater or less degree ; he was old enough, and had 
seen curious things enough, to know that in this 
mingling the current had not always flowed in 
one direction. Certain old decisions with which 
he was familiar ; old scandals that had crept along 
obscure channels ; old facts that had come to the 
knowledge of an old practitioner, who held in the 



118 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

hollow of his hand the honor of more than one 
family, made him know that there was dark blood 
among the white people — not a great deal, and 
that very much diluted, and, so long as it was 
sedulously concealed or vigorously denied, or lost 
in the mists of tradition, or ascribed to a foreign or 
an aboriginal strain, having no perceptible effect 
upon the racial type. 

Such people were, for the most part, merely on 
the ragged edge of the white world, seldom rising 
above the level of overseers, or slave-catchers, or 
sheriff's officers, who could usually be relied upon 
to resent the drop of black blood that tainted them, 
and with the zeal of the proselyte to visit their 
hatred of it upon the unfortunate blacks that fell 
into their hands. One curse of negro slavery 
was, and one part of its baleful heritage is, that 
it poisoned the fountains of human sympathy. 
Under a system where men might sell their own 
children without social reprobation or loss of 
prestige, it was not surprising that some of them 
should hate their distant cousins. There were 
not in Patesville half a dozen persons capable 
of thinking Judge Straight's thoughts upon the 
question before him, and perhaps not another who 
would have adopted the course he now pursued 
toward this anomalous family in the house behind 
the cedars. 

" Well, here we are again, as the clown in the 
circus remarks," murmured the judge. "Ten years 
ago, in a moment of sentimental weakness and of 



AN INJUDICIOUS PAYMENT 119 

quixotic loyalty to the memory of an old friend, — 
who, by the way, had not cared enough for his own 
children to take them away from the South, as he 
might have done, or to provide for them handsomely, 
as he perhaps meant to do, — I violated the tradi- 
tions of my class and stepped from the beaten path 
to help the misbegotten son of my old friend out of 
the slough of despond, in which he had learned, in 
some strange way, that he was floundering. Ten 
years later, the ghost of my good deed returns to 
haunt me, and makes me doubt whether I have 
wrought more evil than good. I wonder," he mused, 
" if he wiU find her out ? " 

The judge was a man of imagination ; he had 
read many books and had personally outlived some 
prejudices. He let his mind run on the various 
phases of the situation. 

"If he found her out, would he by any possi- 
bility marry her ? " 

" It is not likely," he answered himself. " If he 
made the discovery here, the facts would probably 
leak out in the town. It is something that a man 
might do in secret, but only a hero or a fool would 
do openly." 

The judge sighed as he contemplated another 
possibility. He had lived for seventy years imder 
the old regime. The young man was a gentleman 
— so had been the girl's father. Conditions were 
changed, but human nature was the same. Would 
the young man's love turn to disgust and repulsion, 
or would it merely sink from the level of worship 



120 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

to that of desire ? Would the girl, denied marriage, 
accept anything less ? Her mother had, — but 
conditions were changed. Yes, conditions were 
changed, so far as the girl was concerned; there 
was a possible future for her under the new order 
of things ; but white people had not changed their 
opinion of the negroes, except for the worse. The 
general belief was that they were just as inferior as 
before, and had, moreover, been spoiled by a dis- 
gusting assumption of equality, driven into their 
thick skulls by Yankee malignity bent upon humili- 
ating a proud though vanquished foe. 

If the judge had had sons and daughters of his 
own, he might not have done what he now proceeded 
to do. But the old man's attitude toward society 
was chiefly that of an observer, and the narrow 
stream of sentiment left in his heart chose to flow 
toward the weaker party in this unequal conflict, 
— a young woman fighting for love and opportu- 
nity against the ranked forces of society, against 
immemorial tradition, against pride of family and 
of race. 

" It may be the unwisest thing I ever did," he 
said to himself, turning to his desk and taking up 
a quill pen, " and may result in more harm than 
good ; but I was always from childhood in sympathy 
with the under dog. There is certainly as much 
reason in my helping the girl as the boy, for being 
a woman, she is less able to help herself." 

He dipped his pen into the ink and wrote the 
following lines : — 



AN INJUDICIOUS PAYMENT 121 

Madam, - — If you value your daughter's happi- 
ness, keep her at home for the next day or two. 

This note he dried by sprinkling it with sand 
from a box near at hand, signed with his own name, 
and, with a fine courtesy addressed to " Mrs. Molly 
Walden." Having first carefully sealed it in an 
envelope, he stepped to the open door, and spied, 
playing marbles on the street near by, a group 
of negro boysy^ne of whom the judge called by 
name. 

" Here, Billy," he said, handing the boy the 
note, " take this to Mis' Molly Walden. Do you 
know where^she4rves — down on Front Street, in 
the house behind the cedars ? " 

" Yas, suh, I knows de place." 

" Make haste, now. When you come back and 
tell me what she says, I '11 give you ten cents. On 
second thoughts, I shall be gone to lunch, so 
here 's your money," he added, handing the lad 
the bit of soiled paper by which the United States 
government acknowledged its indebtedness to the 
bearer in the sum of ten cents. 

Just here, however, the judge made his mistake. 
Very few mortals can spare the spring of hope, 
the motive force of expectation. The boy kept 
the note in his hand, winked at his companions, 
who had gathered as near as their awe of the judge 
would permit, and started down the street. As 
soon as the judge had disappeared, Billy beckoned 
to his friends, who speedily overtook him. When 



122 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

the party turned the corner of Front Street and 
were safely out of sight of Judge Straight's office, 
the capitalist entered the grocery store and in- 
vested his unearned increment in gingerbread. 
When the ensuing saturnalia was over, Billy fin- 
ished the game of marbles which the judge had 
interrupted, and then set out to execute his com- 
mission. He had nearly reached his objective 
point when he met upon the street a young white 
lady, whom he did not know, and for whom, the 
path being narrow at that point, he stepped out 
into the gutter. He reached the house behind 
the cedars, went round to the back door, and 
handed the envelope to Mis' Molly, who was 
seated on the rear piazza, propped up by pillows 
in a comfortable rocking-chair. 

" Laws-a-massy ! " she exclaimed weakly, " what 
is it?" 

" It 's a lettuh, ma'm," answered the boy, whose 
expanding nostrils had caught a pleasant odor 
from the kitchen, and who was therefore in no 
hurry to go away. 

" Who 's it fur ? " she asked. 

" It 's fuh you, ma'm," replied the lad. 

" An' who 's it from ? " she inquired, turning 
the envelope over and over, and examining it with 
the impotent curiosity of one who cannot read. 

" F'm ole Jedge Straight, ma'm. He tole me 
ter fetch it ter you. Is you got a roasted 'tater 
you could gimme, ma'm? " 

" Shorely, chile. I '11 have Aunt Zilphy fetch 



AN INJUDICIOUS PAYMENT 123 

you a piece of 'tater pone, if you '11 hoi' on a 
minute." 

She called to Aunt Zilphy, who soon came 
hobbling out of the kitchen with a large square of 
the delicacy, — a flat cake made of mashed sweet 
potatoes, mixed with beaten eggs, sweetened and 
flavored to suit the taste, and baked in a Dutch 
oven upon the open hearth. 

The boy took the gratuity, thanked her, and 
turned to go. Mis' Molly was still scanning the 
superscription of the letter. " I wonder," she mur- 
mured, " what old Judge Straight can be writin' 
to me about. Oh, boy ! " 

" Yas 'm," answered the messenger, looking 
back. 

" Can you read writin' ? " 

"No'm." 

" All right. Never mind." 

She laid the letter, carefully on the chimney- 
piece of the kitchen. " I reckon it 's somethin' 
mo' 'bout the taxes," she thought, "or maybe 
somebody wants to buy one er my lots. Rena '11 
be back terreckly, an' she kin read it an' find out. 
I 'm glad my child'en have be'n to school. They 
never could have got where they are now if they 
had n't." 



XIV 

A LOYAL FRIEND 

Mention has been made of certain addressed 
envelopes which John Warwick, on the occa- 
sion of his visit to Patesville, had left with his 
illiterate mother, by the use of which she might 
communicate with her children from time to time. 
On one occasion, Mis' Molly, having had a letter 
written, took one of these envelopes from the chest 
where she kept her most valued possessions, and 
was about to inclose the letter when some one 
knocked at the back door. She laid the envelope 
and letter on a table in her bedroom, and went to 
answer the knock. The wind, blowing across the 
room through the open windows, picked up the 
envelope and bore it into the street. Mis' Molly, 
on her return, missed it, looked for it, and being 
unable to find it, took another envelope. An hour 
or two later another gust of wind lifted the bit 
of paper from the ground and carried it into the 
open door of the cooper shop. Frank picked it 
up, and observing that it was clean and unused, 
read the superscription. In his conversations with 
Mis' Molly, which were often about Eena, — the 
subject uppermost in both their minds, — he had 



A LOYAL FRIEND 125 

i 

noted the mystery maintained by Mis' Molly about 
her daughter's whereabouts, and had often won- 
dered where she might be. Frank was an intel- 
ligent fellow, and could put this and that together. 
The envelope was addressed to a place in South 
Carolina. He was aware, from some casual re- 
mark of Mis' Molly's, that Rena had gone to live 
in South Carolina. Her son's name was John — 
that he had changed his last name was more than 
likely. Frank was not long in reaching the con- 
clusion that Rena was to be found near the town 
named on the envelope, which he carefully pre- 
served for future reference. 

For a whole year Frank had yearned for a smile 
or a kind word from the only woman in the world. 
Peter, his father, had rallied him somewhat upon 
his moodiness after Rena's departure. 

" Now 's de time, boy, fer you ter be lookin' 
roun' fer some nice gal er yo' own color, w'at '11 'pre- 
ciate you, an' won't be 'shamed er you. You 're 
wastin' time, boy, wastin' time, shootin' at a mark 
outer yo' range." 

But Frank said nothing in reply, and afterwards 
the old man, who was not without discernment, 
respected his son's mood and was silent in turn ; 
while Frank fed his memory with his imagination, 
and by their joint aid kept hope alive. 

Later an opportunity to see her presented itself. 
Business in the cooper shop was dull. A barrel 
factory had been opened in the town, and had 
well-nigh paralyzed the cooper's trade. The best 



126 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

mechanic could hardly compete with a machine. 
One man could now easily do the work of » Peter's 
shop. An agent appeared in town seeking labor- 
ers for one of the railroads which the newly or- 
ganized carpet-bag governments were promoting. 
Upon inquiry Frank learned that their destination 
was near the town of Clarence, South Carolina. 
He promptly engaged himself for the service, and 
was soon at work in the neighborhood of War- 
wick's home. There he was employed steadily 
until a certain holiday, upon which a grand tourna- 
ment was advertised to take place in a neighbor- 
ing town. Work was suspended, and foremen and 
laborers attended the festivities. 

Frank had surmised that Rena would be present 
on such an occasion. He had more than guessed, 
too, that she must be looked for among the white 
people rather than among the black. Hence the 
interest with which he had scanned the grand stand. 
The result has already been recounted. He had 
recognized her sweet face ; he had seen her en- 
throned among the proudest and best. He had 
witnessed and gloried in her triumph. He had seen 
her cheek flushed with pleasure, her eyes lit up with 
smiles. He had followed her carriage, had made 
the acquaintance of Mirny the nurse, and had 
learned all about the family. When finally he left 
the neighborhood to return to Patesville, he had 
learned of Tryon's attentions, and had heard the 
servants' gossip with reference to the marriage, 
of which they knew the details long before the 



A LOYAL FRIEND * 127 

principals had approached the main fact. Frank 
went away without having received one smile or 
heard one word from Rena ; but he had seen her : 
she was happy ; he was content in the knowledge of 
her happiness. She was doubtless secure in the be- 
lief that her secret was unknown. Why should he, 
by revealing his presence, sow the seeds of doubt 
or distrust in the garden of her happiness ? He 
sacrificed the deepest longing of a faithful heart, 
and went back to the cooper shop lest perchance she 
might accidentally come upon him some day and 
suffer the shock which he had sedulously spared her. 

" I would n' want ter skeer her," he mused, " er 
make her feel bad, an' dat 's w'at I 'd mos' lackly do 
ef she seed me. She '11 be better off wid me out'n 
de road. She '11 marry dat rich w'ite gent'eman, — 
he won't never know de diffe'nce, — an' be a w'ite 
lady, ez she would 'a' be'n, ef some ole witch had n' 
changed her in her cradle. But maybe some time 
she '11 'member de little nigger w'at use' ter nuss 
her w'en she wuz a chile, an' fished her out'n de ole 
canal, an' would 'a' died fer her ef it would 'a' done 
any good." 

Very generously too, and with a fine delicacy, 
he said nothing to Mis' Molly of his having seen 
her daughter, lest she might be disquieted by the 
knowledge that he shared the family secret, — no 
great mystery now, this pitiful secret, but more far- 
reaching in its consequences than any blood-curdling 
crime. The taint of black blood was the unpardon- 
able sin, from the unmerited penalty of which there 



128 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

was no escape except by concealment. If there be 
a dainty reader of this tale who scorns a lie, and 
who writes the story of his life upon his sleeve for 
all the world to read, let him uncurl his scornful 
lip and come down from the pedestal of superior 
morality, to which assured position and wide op- 
portunity have lifted him, and put himself in the 
place of Rena and her brother, upon whom God had 
lavished his best gifts, and from whom society would 
have withheld all that made these gifts valuable. 
To undertake what they tried to do required great 
courage. Had they possessed the sneaking, crin- 
ging, treacherous character traditionally ascribed 
to people of mixed blood — the character which the 
blessed institutions of a free slave-holding republic 
had been well adapted to foster among them ; had 
they been selfish enough to sacrifice to their ambi- 
tion the mother who gave them birth, society would 
have been placated or humbugged, and the voyage 
of their life might have been one of unbroken 
smoothness. 

When Rena came back unexpectedly at the 
behest of her dream, Frank heard again the music 
of her voice, felt the joy of her presence and the 
benison of her smile. There was, however, a subtle 
difference in her bearing. Her words were not less 
kind, but they seemed to come from a remoter 
source. She was kind, as the sun is warm or the 
rain refreshing ; she was especially kind to Frank, 
because he had been good to her mother. If Frank 
felt the difference in her attitude, he ascribed it to 



A LOYAL FRIEND 129 

the fact that she had been white, and had taken on 
something of the white attitude toward the negro ; 
and Frank, with an equal unconsciousness, clothed 
her with the attributes of the superior race. Only 
her drop of black blood, he conceived, gave him the 
right to feel toward her as he would never have 
felt without it ; and if Rena guessed her faithful 
devotee's secret, the same reason saved his worship 
from presumption. A smile and a kind word were 
little enough to pay for a life's devotion. 

On the third day of Rena's presence in Pates- 
ville, Frank was driving up Front Street in the 
early afternoon, when he nearly fell off his cart 
in astonishment as he saw seated in Dr. Green's 
buggy, which was standing in front of the Pates- 
ville Hotel, the young gentleman who had won the 
prize at the tournament, and who, as he had learned, 
was to marry Rena. Frank was quite certain that 
she did not know of Tryon's presence in the town. 
Frank had been over to Mis' Molly's in the morn- 
ing, and had offered his services to the sick woman, 
who had rapidly become convalescent upon her 
daughter's return. Mis' Molly had sjjoken of some 
camphor that she needed. Frank had volunteered 
to get it. Rena had thanked him, and had spoken 
of going to the drugstore during the afternoon. It 
was her intention to leave Pates ville on the follow- 
ing day. 

" Ef clat man sees her in dis town," said Frank 
to himself, " dere '11 be trouble. She don't know 
he 's here, an' I '11 bet he don't know she 's here." 



130 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

Then Frank was assailed by a very strong tempta- 
tion. If, as he surmised, the joint presence of the 
two lovers in Pates ville was a mere coincidence, a 
meeting between them would probably result in the 
discovery of Rena's secret. 

" If she 's found out," argued the tempter, 
" she '11 come back to her mother, and you can see 
her every day." 

But Frank's love was not of the selfish kind. 
He put temptation aside, and applied the whip to 
the back of his mule with a vigor that astonished the 
animal and moved him to unwonted activity. In 
an unusually short space of time he drew up before 
Mis' Molly's back gate, sprang from the cart, and 
ran up to Mis' Molly on the porch. 

" Is Miss Rena here? " he demanded breathlessly. 

" No, Frank ; she went up town 'bout an hour ago 
to see the doctor an' git me some camphor gum." 

Frank uttered a groan, rushed from the house, 
sprang into the cart, and goaded the terrified mule 
into a gallop that carried him back to the market- 
house in half the time it had taken him to reach 
Mis' Molly's. 

" I wonder what in the woiT 's the matter with 
Frank," mused Mis' Molly, in vague alarm. " Ef 
he had n't be'n in such a hurry, I 'd 'a' axed him 
to read Judge Straight's letter. But Rena '11 be 
home soon." 

When Frank reached the doctor's office, he saw 
Tryon seated in the doctor's buggy, which was 
standing by the window of the drugstore. Frank 



A LOYAL FRIEND 131 

ran upstairs and asked the doctor's man if Miss 
Walden had been there. 

" Yas," replied Dave, " she wuz here a little 
w'ile ago, an' said she wuz gwine downstairs ter de 
drugsto'. I would n' be s'prise' ef you 'd fin' her 
dere now." 



XV 

MINE OWN PEOPLE 

The drive by which Dr. Green took Tryon to 
his own house led up Front Street about a mile, to 
the most aristocratic portion of the town, situated 
on the hill known as Haymount, or, more briefly, 
" The Hill." The Hill had lost some of its former 
glory, however, for the blight of a four years' war 
was everywhere. After reaching the top of this 
wooded eminence, the road skirted for some little 
distance the brow of the hill. Below them lay the 
picturesque old town, a mass of vivid green, dotted 
here and there with gray roofs that rose above the 
tree-tops. Two long ribbons of streets stretched 
away from the Hill to the faint red line that marked 
the high bluff beyond the river at the farther side 
of the town. The market-house tower and the 
slender spires of half a dozen churches were sharply 
outlined against the green background. The face 
of the clock was visible, but the hours could have 
been read only by eyes of phenomenal sharpness. 
Around them stretched ruined walls, dismantled 
towers, and crumbling earthworks — footprints of 
the god of war, one of whose temples had crowned 
tnis height. For many years before the rebellion a 



MINE OWN PEOPLE 133 

Federal arsenal had been located at Patesville. 
Seized by the state troops upon the secession of 
North Carolina, it had been held by the Confed- 
erates until the approach of Sherman's victorious 
army, whereupon it was evacuated and partially 
destroyed. The work of destruction begun by the 
retreating garrison was completed by the conquer- 
ors, and now only ruined walls and broken cannon 
remained of what had once been the chief ornament 
and pride of Patesville. 

The front of Dr. Green's spacious brick house, 
which occupied an ideally picturesque site, was 
overgrown by a network of clinging vines, con- 
trasting most agreeably with the mellow red back- 
ground. A low brick wall, also overrun with 
creepers, separated the premises from the street 
and shut in a well-kept flower garden, in which 
Tryon, who knew something of plants, noticed 
many rare and beautiful specimens. 

Mrs. Green greeted Tryon cordially. He did 
not have the doctor's memory with which to fill out 
the lady's cheeks or restore the lustre of her hair 
or the sparkle of her eyes, and thereby justify her 
husband's claim to be a judge of beauty ; but her 
kind-hearted hospitality was obvious, and might 
have made even a plain woman seem handsome. 
She and her two fair daughters, to whom Tryon 
was duly presented, looked with much favor upon 
their handsome young kinsman ; for among the 
people of Patesville, perhaps by virtue of the pre- 
valence of Scottish blood, the ties of blood were 



134 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

cherished as things of value, and never forgotten 
except in case of the unworthy — an exception, by 
the way, which one need hardly go so far to seek. 

The Patesville people were not exceptional in 
the weaknesses and meannesses which are common 
to all mankind, but for some of the finer social 
qualities they were conspicuously above the aver- 
age. Kindness, hospitality, loyalty, a chivalrous 
deference to women, — all these things might be 
found in large measure by those who saw Patesville 
with the eyes of its best citizens, and accepted 
their standards of politics, religion, manners, and 
morals. 

The doctor, after the introductions, excused 
himself for a moment. Mrs. Green soon left 
Tryon with the young ladies and went to look 
after luncheon. Her first errand, however, was 
to find the doctor. 

" Is he well off, Ed? " she asked her husband. 

"Lots of land, and plenty of money, if he is 
ever able to collect it. He has inherited two 
estates." 

" He 's a good-looking fellow," she mused. " Is 
he married ? " 

" There you go again," replied her husband, 
shaking his forefinger at her in mock reproach. 
" To a woman with marriageable daughters all 
roads lead to matrimony, the centre of a woman's 
universe. All men must be sized up by their 
matrimonial availability. No, he is n't married." 

" That 's nice," she rejoined reflectively. " I 



MINE OWN PEOPLE 135 

think we ought to ask him to stay with us while he 
is in town, don't you ? " 

" He 's not married," rejoined the doctor slyly, 
"but the next best thing — he 's engaged." 

" Come to think of it," said the lady, " I 'm 
afraid we would n't have the room to spare, and 
the girls would hardly have time to entertain him. 
But we '11 have him up several times. I like his 
looks. I wish you had sent me word he was com- 
ing ; I 'd have had a better luncheon." 

" Make him a salad," rejoined the doctor, " and 
get out a bottle of the best claret. Thank God, 
the Yankees did n't get into my wine cellar ! The 
young man must be treated with genuine Southern 
hospitality, — even if he were a Mormon and mar- 
ried ten times over." 

" Indeed, he would not, Ed, — the idea ! I 'm 
ashamed of you. Hurry back to the parlor and 
talk to him. The girls may want to primp a little 
before luncheon ; we don't have a young man 
every day." 

" Beauty unadorned," replied the doctor, " is 
adorned the most. My profession qualifies me to 
speak upon the subject. They are the two hand- 
somest young women in Patesville, and the daugh- 
ters of the most beautiful " — 

" Don't you dare to say the word," interrupted 
Mrs. Green, with placid good nature. " I shall 
never grow old while I am living with a big boy 
like you. But I must go and make the salad." 

At dinner the conversation ran on the family 



136 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

connections and their varying fortunes in the late 
war. Some had died upon the battlefield, and 
slept in unknown graves ; some had been finan- 
cially ruined by their faith in the " lost cause," 
having mvested their all in the securities of the 
Confederate Government. Few had anything left 
but land, and land without slaves to work it was a 
drug in the market. 

" I was offered a thousand acres, the other day, 
at twenty- five cents an acre," remarked the doc- 
tor. " The owner is so land-poor that he can't 
pay the taxes. They have taken our negroes and 
our liberties. It may be better for our grand- 
children that the negroes are free, but it 's con- 
foundedly hard on us to take them without paying 
for them. They may exalt our slaves over us 
temporarily, but they have not broken our spirit, 
and cannot take away our superiority of blood and 
breeding. In time we shall regain control. The 
negro is an inferior creature; God has marked 
him with the badge of servitude, and has adjusted 
his intellect to a servile condition. We will not 
long submit to his domination. I give you a 
toast, sir : The Anglo-Saxon race : may it remain 
forever, as now, the head and front of creation, 
never yielding its rights, and ready always to die, 
if need be, in defense of its liberties ! " 

"With all my heart, sir," replied Tryon, who 
felt in this company a thrill of that pleasure which 
accompanies conscious superiority, — " with all my 
heart, sir, if the ladies will permit me." 



MINE OWN PEOPLE 137 

"We will join you," they replied. The toast 
was drunk with great enthusiasm. 

" And now, my dear George," exclaimed the 
doctor, " to change one good subject for another, 
tell us who is the favored lady ? " 

" A Miss Rowena Warwick, sir," replied Tryon, 
vividly conscious of four pairs of eyes fixed upon 
him, but, apart from the momentary embarrass- 
ment, welcoming the subject as the one he would 
most like to speak upon. 

" A good, strong old English name," observed 
the doctor. 

" The heroine of ' Ivanhoe ' ! " exclaimed Miss 
Harriet. 

" Warwick the Kingmaker ! " said Miss Mary. 
" Is she tall and fair, and dignified and stately ? " 

" She is tall, dark rather than fair, and full of 
tender grace and sweet humility." 

" She should have been named Rebecca instead 
of Rowena," rejoined Miss Mary, who was well up 
in her Scott. 

" Tell us something about her people," asked 
Mrs. Green, — to which inquiry the young ladies 
looked assent. 

In this meeting of the elect of his own class and 
kin Warwick felt a certain strong illumination 
upon the value of birth and blood. Finding Rena 
among people of the best social standing, the sub- 
sequent intimation that she was a girl of no family 
had seemed a small matter to one so much in love. 
Nevertheless, in his present company he felt a 



138 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

decided satisfaction in being able to present for his 
future wife a clean bill of social health. 

" Her brother is the most prominent lawyer of 
Clarence. They live in a fine old family mansion, 
and are among the best people of the town." 

" Quite right, my boy," assented the doctor. 
" None but the best are good enough for the best. 
You must bring her to Patesville some day. But 
bless my life ! " he exclaimed, looking at his 
watch, " I must be going. Will you stay with the 
ladies awhile, or go back down town with me ? " 

" I think I had better go with you, sir. I shall 
have to see Judge Straight." 

" Very well. But you must come back to sup- 
per, and we '11 have a few friends in to meet you. 
You must see some of the best people." 

The doctor's buggy was waiting at the gate. 
As they were passing the hotel on their drive 
down town, the clerk came out to the curbstone 
and called to the doctor. 

" There 's a man here, doctor, who 's been taken 
suddenly ill. Can you come in a minute? " 

" I suppose I '11 have to. Will you wait for 
me here, George, or will you drive down to the 
office ? I can walk the rest of the way." 

" I think I '11 wait here, doctor," answered 
Tryon. " I '11 step up to my room a moment. I '11 
be back by the time you 're ready." 

It was while they were standing before the hotel, 
before alighting from the buggy, that Frank 
Fowler, passing on his cart, saw Tryon and set out 



MINE OWN PEOPLE 139 

as fast as he could to warn Mis' Molly and her 
daughter of his presence in the town. 

Tryon went up to his room, returned after a 
while, and resumed his seat in the buggy, where 
he waited fifteen minutes longer before the doctor 
was ready. When they drew up in front of the 
office, the doctor's man Dave was standing in the 
doorway, looking up the street with an anxious 
expression, as though struggling hard to keep 
something upon his mind. 

" Anything wanted, Dave ? " asked the doctor. 

" Dat young 'oman 's be'n heah ag'in, suh, an' 
wants ter see you bad. She 's in de drugstore dere 
now, suh. Bless* Gawd ! " he added to himself 
fervently, " I 'membered dat. Dis yer recommem- 
b'ance er mine is gwine ter git me inter trouble ef 
I don' look out, an' dat 's a fac', sho'." 

The doctor sprang/ from the buggy with an 
agility remarkable in a man of sixty. " Just keep 
your seat, George," lie said to Tryon, " until I 
have spoken to the woxmg woman, and then we '11 
go across to Straight's. Or, if you '11 drive along 
a little farther, you can see the girl through the 
window. She 's worth the trouble, if you like a 
pretty face." 

Tryon liked one pretty face ; moreover, tinted 
beauty had never appealed to him. More to show 
a proper regard for what interested the doctor than 
from any curiosity of his own, he drove forward a 
few feet, until the side of the buggy was opposite 
the drugstore window, and then looked in. 



140 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

Between the colored glass bottles in the window 
he could see a young woman, a tall and slender girl, 
like a lily on its stem. She stood talking with the 
doctor, who held his hat in his hand with as much 
deference as though she were the proudest dame 
in town. Her face was partly turned away from 
the window, but as Tryon's eye fell upon her, he 
gave a great start. Surely, no two women could be 
so much alike. The height, the graceful droop of the 
shoulders, the swan-like poise of the head, the well- 
turned little ear, — surely, no two women could 
have them all identical ! But, pshaw ! the notion 
was absurd, it was merely the reflex influence of 
his morning's dream. 

She moved slightly ; it was Rena's movement. 
Surely he knew the gown, and the style of hair- 
dressing ! She rested her hand lightly on the 
back of a chair. The ring that glittered on her 
finger could be none other than his own. 

The doctor bowed. The girl nodded in response, 
and, turning, left the store. Tryon leaned forward 
from the buggy-seat and kept his eye fixed on the 
figure that moved across the floor of the drugstore. 
As she came out, she turned her face casually 
toward the buggy, and there could no longer be 
any doubt as to her identity. 

When Rena's eyes fell upon the young man in 
the buggy, she saw a face as pale as death, with 
starting eyes, in which love, which once had 
reigned there, had now given place to astonishment 
and horror. She stood a moment as if turned to 



MINE OWN PEOPLE 141 

stone. One appealing glance she gave, — a look 
that might have softened adamant. When she 
saw that it brought no answering sign of love or 
sorrow or regret, the color faded from her cheek, 
the light from her eye, and she fell fainting to the 
ground. 



XVI 

THE BOTTOM PALLS OUT 

The first effect of Tryon's discovery was, figura- 
tively speaking, to knock the bottom out of things 
for him. It was much as if a boat on which he 
had been floating smoothly down the stream of 
pleasure had sunk suddenly and left him struggling 
in deep waters. The full realization of the truth, 
which followed speedily, had for the moment re- 
versed his mental attitude toward her, and love 
and yearning had given place to anger and dis- 
gust. His agitation could hardly have escaped 
notice had not the doctor's attention, and that of 
the crowd that quickly gathered, been absorbed by 
the young woman who had fallen. During the 
time occupied in carrying her into the drugstore, 
restoring her to consciousness, and sending her 
home in a carriage, Tryon had time to recover in 
some degree his self-possession. When Rena had 
been taken home, he slipped away for a long walk, 
after which he called at Judge Straight's office and 
received the judge's report upon the matter pre- 
sented. Judge Straight had found the claim, in 
his opinion, a good one ; he had discovered prop- 
erty from which, in case the claim were allowed, 



THE BOTTOM FALLS OUT 143 

the amount might be realized. The judge, who had 
already been informed of the incident at the drug- 
store, observed Tryon's preoccupation and guessed 
shrewdly at its cause, but gave no sign. Tryon 
left the matter of the note unreservedly in the 
lawyer's hands, with instructions to communicate 
to him any further developments. 

Returning to the doctor's office, Tryon listened 
to that genial gentleman's comments on the acci- 
dent, his own concern in which he, by a great effort, 
was able to conceal. The doctor insisted upon his 
returning to the Hill for supper. Tryon pleaded ill- 
ness. The doctor was solicitous, felt his pulse, ex- 
amined his tongue, pronounced him feverish, and 
prescribed a sedative. Tryon sought refuge in his 
room at the hotel, from which he did not emerge 
again until morning. 

His emotions were varied and stormy. At first 
he could see nothing but the fraud of which he had 
been made the victim. A negro girl had been 
foisted upon him for a white woman, and he had 
almost committed the unpardonable sin against his 
race of marrying her. Such a step, he felt, would 
have been criminal at any time ; it would have 
been the most odious treachery at this epoch, when 
his people had been subjugated and humiliated by 
the Northern invaders, who had preached negro 
equality and abolished the wholesome laws decree- 
ing the separation of the races. But no South- 
erner who loved his poor, downtrodden country, or 
his race, the proud Anglo-Saxon race which traced 



144 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

the clear stream of its blood to the cavaliers of 
England, could tolerate the idea that even in dis- 
tant generations that unsullied current could be 
polluted by the blood of slaves. The very thought 
was an insult to the white people of the South. 
For Tryon's liberality, of which he had spoken so 
nobly and so sincerely, had been confined uncon- 
sciously, and as a matter of course, within the boun- 
daries of his own race. The Southern mind, in 
discussing abstract questions relative to humanity, 
makes always, consciously or unconsciously, the 
mental reservation that the conclusions reached do 
not apply to the negro, unless they can be made to 
harmonize with the customs of the country. 

But reasoning thus was not without effect upon 
a mind by nature reasonable above the average. 
Tryon's race impulse and social prejudice had 
carried him too far, and the swing of the mental 
pendulum brought his thoughts rapidly back in 
the opposite direction. Tossing uneasily on the 
bed, where he had thrown himself down without 
undressing, the air of the room oppressed him, and 
he threw open the window. The cool night air 
calmed his throbbing pulses. The moonlight, 
streaming through the window, flooded the room 
with a soft light, in which he seemed to see Rena 
standing before him, as she had appeared that 
afternoon, gazing at him with eyes that implored 
charity and forgiveness. He burst into tears, — 
bitter tears, that strained his heartstrings. He 
was only a youth. She was his first love, and he 



THE BOTTOM FALLS OUT 145 

had lost her forever. She was worse than dead 
to him ; for if he had seen her lying in her shroud 
before him, he could at least have cherished her 
memory ; now, even this consolation was denied 
him. 

The town clock — which so long as it was wound 
up regularly recked nothing of love or hate, joy or 
sorrow — solemnly tolled out the hour of midnight 
and sounded the knell of his lost love. Lost she 
was, as though she had never been, as she had 
indeed had no right to be. He resolutely deter- 
mined to banish her image from his mind. See 
her again he could not ; it would be painfid to 
them both ; it could be productive of no good to 
either. He had felt the power and charm of love, 
and no ordinary shock could have loosened its 
hold ; but this catastrophe, which had so rudely 
swept away the groundwork of his passion, had 
stirred into new life all the slumbering pride of 
race and ancestry which characterized his caste. 
How much of this sensitive superiority was essen- 
tial and how much accidental ; how much of it 
was due to the ever-suggested comparison with a 
servile race ; how much of it was ignorance and 
self-conceit ; to what extent the boasted purity of 
his race would have been contaminated by the fair 
woman whose image filled his memory, — of these 
things he never thought. He was not influenced 
by sordid considerations ; he would have denied 
that his course was controlled by any narrow pru- 
dence. If Rena had been white, pure white (for 



146 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

in his creed there was no compromise), he would 
have braved any danger for her sake. Had she 
been merely of illegitimate birth, he would have 
overlooked the bar sinister. Had her people 
been simply poor and of low estate, he would have 
brushed aside mere worldly considerations, and 
would have bravely sacrificed convention for love ; 
for his liberality was not a mere form of words. 
But the one objection which he could not overlook 
was, unhappily, the one that applied to the only 
woman who had as yet moved his heart. He tried 
to be angry with her, but after the first hour he 
found it impossible. He was a man of too much 
imagination not to be able to put himself, in some 
measure at least, in her place, — to perceive that for 
her the step which had placed her in Tryon's world 
was the working out of nature's great law of self- 
preservation, for which he could not blame her. 
But for the sheerest accident, — no, rather, but for 
a providential interference, — he would have mar- 
ried her, and might have gone to the grave uncon- 
scious that she was other than she seemed. 

The clock struck the hour of two. With a 
shiver he closed the window, undressed by the 
moonlight, drew down the shade, and went to bed. 
He fell into an unquiet slumber, and dreamed 
again of Rena. He must learn to control his 
waking thoughts ; his dreams could not be curbed. 
In that realm Rena's image was for many a day 
to remain supreme. He dreamed of her sweet 
smile, her soft touch, her gentle voice. In all her 



THE BOTTOM FALLS OUT 147 

fair young beauty she stood before him, and then 
by some hellish magic she was slowly transformed 
into a hideous black hag. With agonized eyes he 
watched her beautiful tresses become mere wisps 
of coarse wool, wrapped round with dingy cotton 
strings ; he saw her clear eyes grow bloodshot, 
her ivory teeth turn to unwholesome fangs. With 
a shudder he awoke, to find the cold gray dawn 
of a rainy day stealing through the window. 

He rose, dressed himself, went down to break- 
fast, then entered the writing-room and penned a 
letter which, after reading it over, he tore into 
small pieces and threw into the waste-basket. A 
second shared the same fate. Giving up the task, 
he left the hotel and walked down to Dr. Green's 
office. 

"Is the doctor in?" he asked of the colored 
attendant. 

" No, suh," replied the man; " he 's gone ter see 
de young cullud gal w'at fainted w'en de doctuh 
was wid you yistiddy." 

Tryon sat down at the doctor's desk and hastily 
scrawled a note, stating that business compelled 
his immediate departure. He thanked the doctor 
for courtesies extended, and left his regards for 
the ladies. Returning to the hotel, he paid his 
bill and took a hack for the wharf, from which a 
boat was due to leave at nine o'clock. 

As the hack drove down Front Street, Tryon 
noted idly the houses that lined the street. When 
he reached the sordid district in the lower part of 



148 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

the town, there was nothing to attract his atten- 
tion until the carriage came abreast of a row of 
cedar-trees, beyond which could be seen the upper 
part of a large house with dormer windows. Be- 
fore the gate stood a horse and buggy, which Tryon 
thought he recognized as Dr. Green's. He leaned 
forward and addressed the driver. 

" Can you tell me who lives there ? " Tryon 
asked, pointing to the house. 

" A cullud 'oman, suh," the man replied, touch- 
ing his hat. " Mis' Molly Walden an' her daughter 
Rena." 

The vivid impression he received of this house, 
and the spectre that rose before him of a pale, 
broken-hearted girl within its gray walls, weeping 
for a lost lover and a vanished dream of happiness, 
did not argue well for Tryon's future peace of 
mind. Rena's image was not to be easily expelled 
from his heart ; for the laws of nature are higher 
and more potent than merely human institutions, 
and upon anything like a fair field are likely to 
win in the long run. 



XVII 

TWO LETTERS 

Warwick awaited events with some calmness 
and some philosophy, — he could hardly have had 
the one without the other ; and it required much 
philosophy to make him wait a week in patience 
for information upon a subject in which he was so 
vitally interested. The delay pointed to disaster. 
Bad news being expected, delay at least put off 
the evil day. At the end of the week he received 
two letters, — one addressed in his own hand- 
writing and postmarked Patesville, N. C. ; the 
other in the handwriting of George Tryon. He 
opened the Patesville letter, which ran as fol- 
lows : — 

My dear Son, — Frank is writing this letter 
for me. I am not well, but, thank the Lord, I 
am better than I was. 

Rena has had a heap of trouble on account of 
me and my sickness. If I could of dreamt that I 
was going to do so much harm, I would of died and 
gone to meet my God without writing one word to 
spoil my girl's chances in life ; but I did n't know 
what was going to happen, and I hope the Lord 
will forgive me. 



150 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

Frank knows all about it, and so I am having 
him write this letter for me, as Rena is not well 
enough yet. Frank has been very good to me 
and to Rena. He was down to your place and 
saw Rena there, and never said a word about it to 
nobody, not even to me, because he did n't want 
to do Rena no harm. Frank is the best friend I 
have got in town, because he does so much for me 
and don't want nothing in return. (He tells me 
not to put this in about him, but I want you to 
know it.) 

And now about Rena. She come to see me, 
and I got better right away, for it was longing for 
her as much as anything else that made me sick, 
and I was mighty mizzable. When she had been 
here three days and was going back next day, she 
went up town to see the doctor for me, and while 
she was up there she fainted and fell down in the 
street, and Dr. Green sent her home in his buggy 
and come down to see her. He could n't tell what 
was the matter with her, but she has been sick ever 
since and out of her head some of the time, and 
keeps on calling on somebody by the name of 
George, which was the young white man she told 
me she was going to marry. It seems he was in 
town the day Rena was took sick, for Frank saw 
him up street and run all the way down here to tell 
me, so that she could keep out of his way, while she 
was still up town waiting for the doctor and getting 
me some camphor gum for my camphor bottle. Old 
Judge Straight must have knowed something about 



TWO LETTERS 151 

it, for he sent me a note to keep Rena in the house, 
but the little boy he sent it by did n't bring it till 
Rena was already gone up town, and, as I could n't 
read, of course I did n't know what it said. Dr. 
Green heard Rena running on while she was out of 
her head, and I reckon he must have suspicioned 
something, for he looked kind of queer and went 
away without saying nothing. Frank says she met 
this man on the street, and when he found out she 
was n't white, he said or done something that broke 
her heart and she fainted and fell down. 

I am writing you this letter because I know you 
will be worrying about Rena not coming back. If 
it was n't for Frank, I hardly know how I could 
write to you. Frank is not going to say nothing 
about Rena's passing for white and meeting this 
man, and neither am I ; and I don't suppose Judge 
Straight will say nothing, because he is our good 
friend ; and Dr. Green won't say nothing about it, 
because Frank says Dr. Green's cook Nancy says 
this young man named George stopped with him 
and was some cousin or relation to the family, and 
they would n't want people to know that any of their 
kin was thinking about marrying a colored girl, 
and the white folks have all been mad since J. B. 
Thompson married his black housekeeper when she 
got religion and would n't live with him no more. 

All the rest of the connection are well. I have 
just been in to see how Rena is. She is feeling 
some better, I think, and says give you her love 
and she will write you a letter in a few days, as 



152 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

soon as she is well enough. She bust out crying 
while she was talking, but I reckon that is better 
than being out of her head. I hope this may find 
you well, and that this man of Rena's won't say 
nor do nothing down there to hurt you. He has 
not wrote to Rena nor sent her no word. I reckon 
he is very mad. 

Your affectionate mother, 

Mary Walden. 

This letter, while confirming Warwick's fears, 
relieved his suspense. He at least knew the worst, 
unless there should be something still more disturb- 
ing in Tryon's letter, which he now proceeded to 
open, and which ran as follows : — 

John Warwick, Esq. 

Dear Sir, — When I inform you, as you are 
doubtless informed ere the receipt of this, that I 
saw your sister in Patesville last week and learned 
the nature of those antecedents of yours and hers 
at which you hinted so obscurely in a recent con- 
versation, you will not be surprised to learn that 
I take this opportunity of renouncing any preten- 
sions to Miss Warwick's hand, and request you to 
convey this message to her, since it was through 
you that I formed her acquaintance. I think per- 
haps that few white men would deem it necessary 
to make an explanation under the circumstances, 
and I do not know that I need say more than 
that no one, considering where and how I met your 



TWO LETTERS 153 

sister, would have dreamed of even the possibility 
of what I have learned. I might with justice re- 
proach you for trifling with the most sacred feel- 
ings of a man's heart ; but I realize the hardship 
of your position and hers, and can make allowances. 
I would never have sought to know this thing ; I 
would doubtless have been happier had I gone 
through life without finding it out ; but having the 
knowledge, I cannot ignore it, as you must under- 
stand perfectly well. I regret that she should be 
distressed or disappointed, — she has not suffered 
alone. 

I need scarcely assure you that I shall say 
nothing about this affair, and that I shall keep 
your secret as though it were my own. Personally, 
I shall never be able to think of you as other than 
a white man, as you may gather from the tone of 
this letter ; and while I cannot marry your sister, 
I wish her every happiness, and remain, 
Yours very truly, 

George Tryon. 

Warwick could not know that this formal epistle 
was the last of a dozen that Tryon had written and 
destroyed during the week since the meeting in 
Patesville, — hot, blistering letters, cold, cutting 
letters, scornful, crushing letters. Though none of 
them was sent, except this last, they had furnished 
a safety-valve for his emotions, and had left him in 
a state of mind that permitted him to write the 
foregoing. 



154 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

And now, while Rena is recovering from her ill- 
ness, and Tryon from his love, and while Fate is 
shuffling the cards for another deal, a few words 
may be said about the past life of the people who 
lived in the rear of the flower garden, in the quaint 
old house beyond the cedars, and how their lives 
were mingled with those of the men and women 
around them and others that were gone. For con- 
nected with our kind we must be ; if not by our 
virtues, then by our vices, — if not by our services, 
at least by our needs. 



XVIII 

UNDER THE OLD REGIME 

For many years before the civil war there had 
lived, in the old house behind the cedars, a free 
colored woman who went by the name of Molly 
Walden — her rightful name, for her parents 
were free-born and legally married. She was a tall 
woman, straight as an arrow. Her complexion in 
youth was of an old ivory tint, which at the period 
of this story, time had darkened measurably. Her 
black eyes, now faded, had once sparkled with the 
fire of youth. High cheek-bones, straight black 
hair, and a certain dignified reposefulness of man- 
ner pointed to an aboriginal descent. Tradition 
gave her to the negro race. Doubtless she had a 
strain of each, with white blood very visibly pre- 
dominating over both. In Louisiana or the West 
Indies she would have been called a quadroon, or 
more loosely, a Creole ; in North Carolina, where 
fine distinctions were not the rule in matters 
of color, she was sufficiently differentiated when 
described as a bright mulatto. 

Molly^s free birth carried with it certain advan- 
tages, even in the South before the war. Though 
degraded from its high estate, and shorn of its 



156 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

choicest attributes, the word " freedom " had 
nevertheless a cheerful sound, and described a con- 
dition that left even to colored people who could 
claim it some liberty of movement and some con- 
trol of their own persons. They were not citizens, 
yet they were not slaves. No negro, save in books, 
ever refused freedom ; many of them ran frightful 
risks to achieve it. Molly's parents were of the 
class, more numerous in North Carolina than else- 
where, known as " old issue free negroes," which 
took its rise in the misty colonial period, when race 
lines were not so closely drawn, and the population 
of North Carolina comprised many Indians, run- 
away negroes, and indentured white servants from 
the seaboard plantations, who mingled their blood 
with great freedom and small formality. Free 
colored people in North Carolina exercised the 
right of suffrage as late as 1835, and some of them, 
in spite of galling restrictions, attained to a con- 
siderable degree of prosperity, and dreamed of a 
still brighter future, when the growing tyranny of 
the slave power crushed their hopes and crowded 
the free people back upon the black mass just 
beneath them. Mis' Molly's father had been at 
one time a man of some means. In an evil hour, 
with an overweening confidence in his fellow men, 
he indorsed a note for a white man who, in a 
moment of financial hardship, clapped his colored 
neighbor on the back and called him brother. Not 
poverty, but wealth, is the most potent leveler. 
In due time the indorser was called upon to meet 



UNDER THE OLD REGIME 157 

the maturing obligation. This was the beginning 
of a series of financial difficulties which speedily 
involved him in ruin. He died prematurely, a dis- 
appointed and disheartened man, leaving his family 
in dire poverty. 

His widow and surviving children lived on for 
a little while at the house he had owned, just out- 
side of the town, on one of the main traveled roads. 
By the wayside, near the house, there was a famous 
deep well. The slim, barefoot girl, with sparkling 
eyes and voluminous hair, who played about the 
yard and sometimes handed water in a gourd to 
travelers, did not long escape critical observation. 
A gentleman drove by one day, stopped at the 
well, smiled upon the girl, and said kind words. He 
came again, more than once, and soon, while 
scarcely more than a child in years, Molly was 
living in her own house, hers by deed of gift, for 
her protector was rich and liberal. Her mother 
nevermore knew want. Her poor relations could 
always find a meal in Molly's kitchen. She did 
not flaunt her prosperity in the world's face ; she 
hid it discreetly behind the cedar screen. Those 
who wished could know of it, for there were few 
secrets in Patesville ; those who chose could as 
easily ignore it. There were few to trouble them- 
selves about the secluded life of an obscure woman 
of a class which had no recognized place in the 
social economy. She worshiped the ground upon 
which her lord walked, was hmnbly grateful for 
his protection, and quite as faithful as the forbidden 



158 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

m 
marriage vow could possibly have made her. She 

led her life in material peace and comfort, and 
with a certain amount of dignity. Of her false 
relation to society she was not without some 
vague conception ; but the moral point involved 
was so confused with other questions growing out 
of slavery and caste as to cause her, as a rule, but 
little uneasiness ; and only now and then, in the 
moments of deeper feeling that come sometimes to 
all who live and love, did there break through the 
mists of ignorance and prejudice surrounding her 
a flash of light by which she saw, so far as she 
was cajDable of seeing, her true position, which in 
the clear light of truth no special pleading could 
entirely justify. For she was free, she had not 
the slave's excuse. With every inducement to do 
evil and few incentives to do well, and hence 
entitled to charitable judgment, she yet had free- 
dom of choice, and therefore could not wholly es- 
cape blame. Let it be said, in further extenuation, 
that no other woman lived in neglect or sorrow 
because of her. She robbed no one else. For 
what life gave her she returned an equivalent ; and 
what she did not pay, her children settled to the 
last farthing. 

Several years before the war, when Mis' Molly's 
daughter Rena was a few years old, death had 
suddenly removed the source of their prosperity. 

The household was not left entirely destitute. 
Mis' Molly owned her home, and had a store of 
gold pieces in the chest beneath her bed. A small 



UNDER THE OLD REGIME 159 

piece of real estate stood in the name of each of 
the children, the income from which contributed to 
their maintenance. Larger expectations were de- 
pendent upon the discovery of a promised will, 
which never came to light. Mis' Molly wore black 
for several years after this bereavement, until the 
teacher and the preacher, following close upon the 
heels of military occupation, suggested to the col- 
ored people new standards of life and character, in 
the light of which Mis' Molly laid her mourning 
sadly and shamefacedly aside. She had eaten of 
the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. After the war 
she formed the habit of church-going, and might 
have been seen now and then, with her daughter, in 
a retired corner of the gallery of the white Episco- 
pal church. Upon the ground floor was a certain 
pew which could be seen from her seat, where once 
had sat a gentleman whose pleasures had not inter- 
fered with the practice of his religion. She might 
have had a better seat in a church where a Northern 
missionary would have preached a sermon better 
suited to her comprehension and her moral needs, 
but she preferred the other. She was not white, 
alas ! she was shut out from this seeming paradise ; 
but she liked to see the distant glow of the celestial 
city, and to recall the days when she had basked in 
its radiance. She did not sympathize greatly with 
the new era opened up for the emancipated slaves ; 
she had no ideal love of liberty ; she was no broader 
and no more altruistic than the white people around 
her, to whom she had always looked up ; and she 



160 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

sighed for the old days, because to her they had 
been the good days. Now, not only was her king 
dead, but the shield of his memory protected her 
no longer. 

Molly had lost one child, and his grave was 
visible from the kitchen window, under a small 
clump of cedars in the rear of the two-acre lot. 
For even in the towns many a household had its 
private cemetery in those old days when the living 
were close to the dead, and ghosts were not the 
mere chimeras of a sick imagination, but real 
though unsubstantial entities, of which it was al- 
most disgraceful not to have seen one or two. 
Had not the Witch of Endor called up the shade 
of Samuel the prophet? Had not the spirit of 
Mis' Molly's dead son appeared to her, as well 
as the ghostly presence of another she had loved? 

In 1855, Mis' Molly's remaining son had grown 
into a tall, slender lad of fifteen, with his father's 
patrician features and his mother's Indian hair, 
and no external sign to mark him off from the 
white boys on the street. He soon came to know, 
however, that there was a difference. He was in- 
formed one day that he was black. He denied the 
proposition and thrashed the child who made it. 
The scene was repeated the next day, with a vari- 
ation, — he was himself thrashed by a larger boy. 
When he had been beaten five or six times, he 
ceased to argue the point, though to himself he 
never admitted the charge. His playmates might 
call him black ; the mirror proved that God, the 



UNDER THE OLD REGIME 161 

Father of all, had made him white ; and God, he 
had been taught, made no mistakes, — having 
made him white, He must have meant him to be 
white. 

In the " hall " or parlor of his mother's house 
stood a quaintly carved black walnut bookcase, 
containing a small but remarkable collection of 
books, which had at one time been used, in his 
hours of retreat and relaxation from business and 
politics, by the distinguished gentleman who did 
not give his name to Mis' Molly's children, — to 
whom it would have been a valuable heritage, could 
they have had the right to bear it. Among the 
books were a volume of Fielding's complete works, 
in fine print, set in double columns ; a set of Bul- 
wer's novels ; a collection of everything that Walter 
Scott — the literary idol of the South — had ever 
written ; Beaumont and Fletcher's plays, cheek by 
jowl with the history of the virtuous Clarissa Har- 
lowe ; the Spectator and Tristram Shandy, Robinson 
Crusoe and the Arabian Nights. On these secluded 
shelves Roderick Random, Don Quixote, and Gil 
Bias for a long time ceased their wanderings, the 
Pilgrim's Progress was suspended, Milton's mighty 
harmonies were dumb, and Shakespeare reigned 
over a silent kingdom. An illustrated Bible, with a 
wonderful Apocrypha, was flanked on one side by 
Volney's Ruins of Empire and on the other by 
Paine' s Age of Reason, for the collector of the 
books had been a man of catholic taste as well as 
of inquiring mind, and no one who could have 



162 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

criticised his reading ever penetrated behind the 
cedar hedge. A history of the French Revolution 
consorted amiably with a homespun chronicle of 
North Carolina, rich in biographical notices of 
distinguished citizens and inscriptions from their 
tombstones, upon reading which one might well 
wonder why North Carolina had not long ago 
eclipsed the rest of the world in wealth, wisdom, 
glory, and renown. On almost every page of this 
monumental work could be found the most ardent 
panegyrics of liberty, side by side with the slavery 
statistics of the State, — an incongruity of which 
the learned author was deliciously unconscious. 

When John Walden was yet a small boy, he 
had learned all that could be taught by the faded 
mulatto teacher in the long, shiny black frock 
coat, whom local public opinion permitted to teach 
a handful of free colored children for a pittance 
barely enough to keep soul and body together. 
When the boy had learned to read, he discovered 
the library, which for several years had been with- 
out a reader, and found in it the portal of a new 
world, peopled with strange and marvelous beings. 
Lying prone upon the floor of the shaded front 
piazza, behind the fragrant garden, he followed 
the fortunes of Tom Jones and Sophia ; he wept 
over the fate of Eugene Aram ; he penetrated with 
Richard the Lion-heart into Saladin's tent, with 
Gil Bias into the robbers' cave ; he flew through 
the air on the magic carpet or the enchanted horse, 
or tied with Sindbad to the roc's leg. Sometimes 



UNDER THE OLD REGIME 163 

he read or repeated the simpler stories to his little 
sister, sitting wide-eyed by his side. When he had 
read all the books, — indeed, long before he had 
read them all, — he too had tasted of the f rait of 
the Tree of Knowledge : contentment took its flight, 
and happiness lay far beyond the sphere where 
he was born. The blood of his white fathers, the 
heirs of the ages, cried out for its own, and after 
the manner of that blood set about getting the 
object of its desire. 

Near the corner of Mackenzie Street, just one 
block north of the Patesville market-house, there 
had stood for many years before the war, on the 
verge of the steep bank of Beaver Creek, a small 
frame office building, the front of which was level 
with the street, while the rear rested on long brick 
pillars founded on the solid rock at the edge of the 
brawling stream below. Here, for nearly half a 
century, Archibald Straight had transacted legal 
business for the best people of Northumberland 
County. Full many a lawsuit had he won, lost, or 
settled ; many a spendthrift had he saved from 
ruin, and not a few families from disgrace. Sev- 
eral times honored by election to the bench, he 
had so dispensed justice tempered with mercy as 
to win the hearts of all good citizens, and espe- 
cially those of the poor, the oppressed, and the 
socially disinherited. The rights of the humblest 
negro, few as they might be, were as sacred to 
him as those of the proudest aristocrat, and he 
had sentenced a man to be hanged for the murder 



164 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

of his own slave. An old-fashioned man, tall and 
spare of figure and bowed somewhat with age, he 
was always correctly clad in a long frock coat of 
broadcloth, with a high collar and a black stock. 
Courtly in address to his social equals (superiors 
he had none), he was kind and considerate to 
those beneath him. He owned a few domestic 
servants, no one of whom had ever felt the weight 
of his hand, and for whose ultimate freedom he 
had provided in his will. In the long-drawn-out 
slavery agitation he had taken a keen interest, 
rather as observer than as participant. As the heat 
of controversy increased, his lack of zeal for the 
peculiar institution led to his defeat for the bench 
by a more active partisan. His was too just a 
mind not to perceive the arguments on both sides ; 
but, on the whole, he had stood by the ancient 
landmarks, content to let events drift to a conclu- 
sion he did not expect to see ; the institutions of 
his fathers would probably last his lifetime. 

One day Judge Straight was sitting in his 
office reading a recently published pamphlet, — pre- 
senting an elaborate pro-slavery argument, based 
upon the hopeless intellectual inferiority of the 
negro, and the physical and moral degeneration 
of mulattoes, who combined the worst qualities of 
their two ancestral races, — when a barefooted boy 
walked into the office, straw hat in hand, came 
boldly up to the desk at which the old judge was 
sitting, and said as the judge looked up through 
his gold-rimmed glasses, — 



UNDER THE OLD REGIME 165 

" Sir, I want to be a lawyer ! " 

" God bless me ! " exclaimed the judge. " It is 
a singular desire, from a singular source, and ex- 
pressed in a singular way. Who the devil are 
you, sir, that wish so strange a thing as to become 
a lawyer — everybody's servant ? " 

" And everybody's master, sir," replied the lad 
stoutly. 

" That is a matter of opinion, and open to argu- 
ment," rejoined the judge, amused and secretly 
flattered by this tribute to his profession, " though 
there may be a grain of truth in what you say ( 
But what is your name, Mr. Would-be-lawyer ? " 

" John Walden, sir," answered the lad. 

" John Walden ? — Walden ? " mused the judge. 
" What Walden can that be ? Do you belong in 
town ? " 

" Yes, sir." 

" Humph ! I can't imagine who you are. It 's 
plain that you are a lad of good blood, and yet I 
don't know whose son you can be. What is your 
father's name? " 

The lad hesitated, and flushed crimson. 

The old gentleman noted his hesitation. " It 
is a wise son," he thought, " that knows his own 
father. He is a bright lad, and will have this 
question put to him more than once. I '11 see 
how he will answer it." 

The boy maintained an awkward silence, while 
the old judge eyed him keenly. 

" My father 's dead," he said at length, in a low 



166 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

voice. "I'm Mis' Molly Walden's son." He 
had expected, of course, to tell who he was, if 
asked, but had not foreseen just the form of the 
inquiry ; and while he had thought more of his 
race than of his illegitimate birth, he realized at 
this moment as never before that this question too 
would be always with him. As put now by Judge 
Straight, it made him wince. He had not read his 
father's books for nothing. 

" God bless my soul ! " exclaimed the judge in 
genuine surprise at this answer ; " and you want 
to be a lawyer ! " The situation was so much 
worse than he had suspected that even an old 
practitioner, case-hardened by years of life at the 
trial table and on the bench, was startled for a 
moment into a comical sort of consternation, so 
apparent that a lad less stout-hearted would have 
weakened and fled at the sight of it. 

" Yes, sir. Why not ? " responded the boy, 
trembling a little at the knees, but stoutly holding 
his ground. 

" He wants to be a lawyer, and he asks me why 
not ! " muttered the judge, speaking apparently to 
himself. He rose from his chair, walked across 
the room, and threw open a window. The cool 
morning air brought with it the babbling of the 
stream below and the murmur of the mill near by. 
He glanced across the creek to the ruined founda- 
tion of an old house on the low ground beyond the 
creek. Turning from the window, he looked back 
at the boy, who had remained standing between 



UNDER THE OLD REGIME 167 

him and the door. At that moment another lad 
came along the street and stopped opposite the 
open doorway. The presence of the two boys in 
connection with the book he had been reading 
suggested a comparison. The judge knew the lad 
outside as the son of a leading merchant of the 
town. The merchant and his wife were both of 
old families which had lived in the community 
for several generations, and whose blood was 
presumably of the purest strain ; yet the boy 
was sallow, with amorphous features, thin shanks, 
and stooping shoulders. The youth standing in 
the judge's office, on the contrary, was straight, 
shapely, and well-grown. His eye was clear, and 
he kept it fixed on the old gentleman with a look 
in which there was nothing of cringing. He was 
no darker than many a white boy bronzed by the 
Southern sun ; his hair and eyes were black, and 
his features of the high-bred, clean-cut order that 
marks the patrician type the world over. What 
struck the judge most forcibly, however, was the 
lad's resemblance to an old friend and companion 
and client. He recalled a certain conversation 
with this old friend, who had said to him one day : 

" Archie, I 'm coming in to have you draw my 
will. There are some children for whom I would 
like to make ample provision. I can't give them 
anything else, but money will make them free of 
the world." 

The judge's friend had died suddenly before 
carrying out this good intention. The judge had 



168 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

taken occasion to suggest the existence of these 
children, and their father's intentions concerning 
them, to the distant relatives who had inherited 
his friend's large estate. They had chosen to take 
offense at the suggestion. One had thought it in 
shocking bad taste ; another considered any men- 
tion of such a subject an insult to his cousin's 
memory. A third had said, with flashing eyes, that 
the woman and her children had already robbed 
the estate of enough ; that it was a pity the little 
niggers were not slaves — that they would have 
added measurably to the value of the property. 
Judge Straight's manner indicated some disapproval 
of their attitude, and the settlement of the estate 
was placed in other hands than his. Now, this son, 
with his father's face and his father's voice, stood 
before his father's friend, demanding entrance to 
the golden gate of opportunity, which society barred 
to all who bore the blood of the despised race. 

As he kept on looking at the boy, who began at 
length to grow somewhat embarrassed under this 
keen scrutiny, the judge's mind reverted to certain 
laws and judicial decisions that he had looked up 
once or twice in his lifetime. Even the law, the 
instrument by which tyranny riveted the chains 
upon its victims, had revolted now and then against 
the senseless and unnatural prejudice by which a 
race ascribing its superiority to right of blood 
permitted a mere suspicion of 'servile blood to out- 
weigh a vast preponderance of its own. 

" Why, indeed, should he not be a lawyer, or 



UNDER THE OLD REGIME 169 

anything else that a man might be, if it be in him ? " 
asked the judge, speaking rather to himself than 
to the boy. " Sit down," he ordered, pointing to 
a chair on the other side of the room. That he 
should ask a colored lad to be seated in his presence 
was of itself enough to stamp the judge as eccentric. 
" You want to be a lawyer," he went on, adjusting 
his spectacles. " You are aware, of course, that 
you are a negro ? " 

" I am white," replied the lad, turning back his 
sleeve and holding out his arm, " and I am free, as 
all my people were before me." 

The old lawyer shook his head, and fixed his eyes 
upon the lad with a slightly quizzical smile. " You 
are black," he said, " and you are not free. You 
cannot travel without your papers ; you cannot 
secure accommodations at an inn ; you could not 
vote, if you were of age ; you cannot be out after 
nine o'clock without a permit. If a white man 
struck you, you could not return the blow, and you 
could not testify against him in a court of justice. 
You are black, my lad, and you are not free. Did 
you ever hear of the Dred Scott decision^ delivered 
by the great, wise, and learned Judge Taney?" 

" No, sir," answered the boy. 

"It is too long to read," rejoined the judge, 
taking up the pamphlet he had laid down upon the 
lad's entrance, " but it says in substance, as quoted 
by this author, that negroes are beings ' of an 
inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate 
with the white race, either in social or political 



170 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

relations ; in fact, so inferior that they have no 
rights which the white man is bound to respect, and 
that the negro may justly and lawfully be reduced 
to slavery for his benefit.' That is the law of 
this nation, and that is the reason why you cannot 
be a lawyer." 

" It may all be true," replied the boy, " but it 
don't apply to me. It says ' the negro.' A negro 
is black ; I am white, and not black." 

" Black as ink, my lad," returned the lawyer, 
shaking his head. " ' One touch of nature makes 
the whole world kin,' says the poet. Somewhere, 
sometime, you had a black ancestor. One drop of 
black blood makes the whole man black." 

" Why should n't it be the other way, if the 
white blood is so much superior ? " inquired the lad. 

" Because it is more convenient as it is — and 
more profitable." 

" It is not right," maintained the lad. 

" God bless me ! " exclaimed the old gentleman, 
" he is invading the field of ethics ! He will be 
questioning the righteousness of slavery next ! I 'm 
afraid you wouldn't make a good lawyer, in any 
event. Lawyers go by the laws — they abide by the 
accomplished fact ; to them, whatever is, is right. 
The laws do not permit men of color to practice 
law, and public sentiment would not allow one of 
them to study it." 

" I had thought," said the lad, " that I might 
pass for white. There are white people darker 
than I am." 



UNDER THE OLD REGIME 171 

" Ah, well, that is another matter ; but " — 

The judge stopped for a moment, struck by the 
absurdity of his arguing such a question with a 
mulatto boy. He really must be falling into pre- 
mature dotage. The proper thing would be to 
rebuke the lad for his presumption and advise him 
to learn to take care of horses, or make boots, or 
lay bricks. But again he saw his old friend in the 
lad's face, and again he looked in vain for any sign 
of negro blood. The least earmark would have 
turned the scale, but he could not find it. 

" That is another matter," he repeated. " Here 
you have started as black, and must remain so. 
But if you wish to move away, and sink your past 
into oblivion, the case might be different. Let us 
see what the law is ; you might not need it if you 
went far enough, but it is well enough to be within 
it — liberty is sweeter when founded securely on 
the law." 

He took down a volume bound in legal calf and 
glanced through it. " The color line is drawn in 
North Carolina at four generations removed from 
the negro ; there have been judicial decisions to 
that effect. I imagine that would cover your 
case. But let us see what South Carolina may 
say about it," he continued, taking another book. 
" I think the law is even more liberal there. Ah, 
this is the place : — 

" ' The term mulatto,' " he read, " ' is not invari- 
ably applicable to every admixture of African blood 
with the European, nor is one having all the features 



172 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

of a white to be ranked with the degraded class 
designated by the laws of this State as persons of 
color, because of some remote taint of the negro 
race. Juries would probably be justified in hold- 
ing a person to be white in whom the admixture 
of African blood did not exceed one eighth. And 
even where color or feature are doubtful, it is a 
question for the jury to decide by reputation, by 
reception into society, and by their exercise of the 
privileges of the white man, as well as by admixture 
of blood.' " 

" Then I need not be black ? " the boy cried, 
with sparkling eyes. 

" No," replied the lawyer, " you need not be 
black, away from Patesville. You have the some- 
what unusual privilege, it seems, of choosing 
between two races, and if you are a lad of spirit, 
as I think you are, it will not take you long to make 
your choice. As you have all the features of a 
white man, you would, at least in South Carolina, 
have simply to assume the place and exercise the 
privileges of a white man. You might, of course, 
do the same thing anywhere, as long as no one knew 
your origin. But the matter has been adjudicated 
there in several cases, and on the whole I think 
South Carolina is the place for you. They 're more 
liberal there, perhaps because they have many 
more blacks than whites, and would like to lessen 
the disproportion." 

" From this time on," said the boy, " I am white." 

" Softly, softly, my Caucasian fellow citizen," 



UNDER THE OLD REGIME 173 

returned the judge, chuckling with quiet amuse- 
ment. " You are white in the abstract, before the 
law. You may cherish the fact in secret, but I 
would not advise you to proclaim it openly just 
yet. You must wait until you go away — to South 
Carolina." 

" And can I learn to be a lawyer, sir ? " asked 
the lad. 

" It seems to me that you ought to be reason- 
ably content for one day with what you have 
learned already. You cannot be a lawyer until 
you are white, in position as well as in theory, nor 
until you are twenty-one years old. I need an 
office boy. If you are willing to come into my 
office, sweep it, keep my books dusted, and stay 
here when I am out, I do not care. To the rest 
of the town you will be my servant, and still a 
negro. If you choose to read my books when no 
one is about and be white in your own private 
opinion, I have no objection. When you have 
made up your mind to go away, perhaps what you 
have read may help you. But mum 's the word ! 
If I hear a whisper of this from any other source, 
out you go, neck and crop ! I am willing to help 
you make a man of yourself, but it can only be 
done under the rose." 

For two years John Walden openly swept the 
office and surreptitiously read the law books of old 
Judge Straight. When he was eighteen, he asked 
his mother for a sum of money, kissed her good- 
by, and went out into the world. When his sis- 



174 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

ter, then a pretty child of seven, cried because her 
big brother was going away, he took her up in his 
arms, gave her a silver dime with a hole in it for 
a keepsake, hugged her close, and kissed her. 

" Nev' min', sis," he said soothingly. " Be a 
good little gal, an' some o' these days I '11 come 
back to see you and bring you somethin' fine." 

In after years, when Mis' Molly was asked what 
had become of her son, she would reply with sad 
complacency, — 

"He 's gone over on the other side." 

As we have seen, he came back ten years later. 

Many years before, when Mis' Molly, then a 
very young woman, had taken up her residence in 
the house behind the cedars, the gentleman here- 
tofore referred to had built a cabin on the opposite 
corner, in which he had installed a trusted slave 
by the name of Peter Fowler and his wife Nancy. 
Peter was a good mechanic, and hired his time 
from his master with the provision that Peter and 
his wife should do certain work for Mis' Molly and 
serve as a sort of protection for her. In course of 
time Peter, who was industrious and thrifty, saved 
enough money to purchase his freedom and that 
of his wife and their one child, and to buy the little 
house across the street, with the cooper shop be- 
hind it. After they had acquired their freedom, 
Peter and Nancy did no work for Mis' Molly save 
as they were paid for it, and as a rule preferred 
not to work at all for the woman who had been 



UNDER THE OLD REGIME 175 

practically their mistress ; it made them seem less 
free. Nevertheless, the two households had re- 
mained upon good terms, even after the death of 
the man whose will had brought them together, 
and who had remained Peter's patron after he had 
ceased to be his master. There was no intimate 
association between the two families. Mis' Molly 
felt herself infinitely superior to Peter and his 
wife, — scarcely less superior than her poor white 
neighbors felt themselves to Mis' Molly. Mis' 
Molly always meant to be kind, and treated Peter 
and Nancy with a certain good-natured condescen- 
sion. They resented this, never openly or offen- 
sively, but always in a subconscious sort of 
way, even when they did not speak of it among 
themselves — much as they had resented her mis- 
tress-ship in the old days. For after all, they 
argued, in spite of her airs and graces, her white 
face and her fine clothes, was she not a negro, 
even as themselves ? and since the slaves had been 
freed, was not one negro as good as another? 

Peter's son Frank had grown up with little 
Rena. He was several years older than she, and 
when Rena was a small child Mis' Molly had often 
confided her to his care, and he had watched over 
her and kept her from harm. When Frank be- 
came old enough to go to work in the cooper shop, 
Rena, then six or seven, had often gone across 
to play among the clean white shavings. Once 
Frank, while learning the trade, had let slip a sharp 
steel tool, which flying toward Rena had grazed 



176 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

her arm and sent the red blood coursing along the 
white flesh and soaking the muslin sleeve. He 
had rolled up the sleeve and stanched the blood 
and dried her tears. For a long time thereafter 
her mother kept her away from the shop and was 
very cold to Frank. One day the little girl wan- 
dered down to the bank of the old canal. It had 
been raining for several days, and the water was 
quite deep in the channel. The child slipped and 
fell into the stream. From the open window of 
the cooper shop Frank heard a scream. He ran 
down to the canal and pulled her out, and carried 
her all wet and dripping to the house. From that 
time he had been restored to favor. He had 
watched the girl grow up to womanhood in the 
years following the war, and had been sorry when 
she became too old to play about the shop. 

He never spoke to her of love, — indeed, he 
never thought of his passion in such a light. 
There would have been no legal barrier to their 
union ; there would have been no frightful menace 
to white supremacy in the marriage of the negro 
and the octoroon : the drop of dark blood bridged 
the chasm. But Frank knew that she did not 
love him, and had not hoped that she might. His 
was one of those rare souls that can give with 
small hope of return. When he had made the 
scar upon her arm, by the same token she had 
branded him her slave forever ; when he had saved 
her from a watery grave, he had given his life to 
her. There are depths of fidelity and devotion in 



UNDER THE OLD REGIME 177 

the negro heart that have never been fathomed or 
fully appreciated. Now and then in the kindlier 
phases of slavery these qualities were brightly con- 
spicuous, and in them, if wisely appealed to, lies 
the strongest hope of amity between the two races 
whose destiny seems bound up together in the 
Western world. Even a dumb brute can be won 
by kindness. Surely it were worth while to try 
some other weapon than scorn and contumely and 
hard words upon people of our common race, — 
the human race, which is bigger and broader than 
Celt or Saxon, barbarian or Greek, Jew or Gen- 
tile, black or white ; for we are all children of a 
common Father, forget it as we may, and each one 
of us is in some measure his brother's keeper. 



XIX 

GOD MADE US ALL 

Ren A was convalescent from a two-weeks' ill- 
ness when her brother came to see her. He arrived 
at Patesville by an early morning train before the 
town was awake, and walked unnoticed from the 
station to his mother's house. His meeting with 
his sister was not without emotion : he embraced 
her tenderly, and Rena became for a few minutes 
a very Niobe of grief. 

" Oh, it was cruel, cruel ! " she sobbed. " I 
shall never get over it." 

" I know it, my dear," replied Warwick sooth- 
ingly, — "I know it, and I 'm to blame for it. If 
I had never taken you away from here, you would 
have escaped this painful experience. But do not 
despair; all is not lost. Tryon will not marry 
you, as I hoped he might, while I feared the con- 
trary ; but he is a gentleman, and will be silent. 
Come back and try again." 

" No, John. I could n't go through it a second 
time. I managed very well before, when I thought 
our secret was unknown ; but now I could never 
be sure. It would be borne on every wind, for 
aught I knew, and every rustling leaf might 
whisper it. The law, you said, made us white ; 



GOD MADE US ALL 179 

but not the law, nor even love, can conquer preju- 
dice. He spoke of my beauty, my grace, my 
sweetness ! I looked into bis eyes and believed 
him. And yet he left me without a word ! What 
would I do in Clarence now ? . I came away en- 
gaged to be married, with even the day set ; I 
should go back forsaken and discredited-; even the 
servants would pity me." 

" Little Albert is pining for you," suggested 
Warwick. " We could make some explanation 
that would spare your feelings." 

" Ah, do not tempt me, John ! I love the child, 
and am grieved to leave him. I 'm grateful, too, 
John, for what you have done for me. I am not 
sorry that I tried it. It opened my eyes, and I 
would rather die of knowledge than live in igno- 
rance. But I could not go through it again, John ; 
I am not strong enough. I could do you no good ; 
I have made you trouble enough already. Get a 
mother for Albert — Mrs. Newberry would marry 
you, secret and all, and would be good to the child. 
Forget me, John, and take care of yourself. Your 
friend has found you out through me — he may 
have told a dozen people. You think he will be 
silent ; — I thought he loved me, and he left me 
without a word, and with a look that told me how 
he hated and despised me. I would not have 
believed it — even of a white man." 

"You do him an injustice," said her brother, 
producing Tryon's letter. " He did not get off 
unscathed. He sent you a message." 



180 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

She turned her face away, but listened while he 
read the letter. " He did not love me," she cried 
angrily, when he had finished, "or he would not 
have cast me off — he would not have looked at 
me so. The law would have let him marry me. I 
seemed as white as he did. He might have gone 
anywhere with me, and no one would have stared 
at us curiously ; no one need have known. The 
world is wide — there must be some place where a 
man could live happily with the woman he loved." 

" Yes, Rena, there is ; and the world is wide 
enough for you to get along without Tryon." 

" For a day or two," she went on, " I hoped 
he might come back. But his expression in that 
awful moment grew upon me, haunted me day and 
night, until I shuddered at the thought that I might 
ever see him again. He looked at me as though I 
were not even a human being. I do not love him 
any longer, John ; I would not marry him if I 
were white, or he were as I am. He did not love 
me — or he would have acted differently. He 
might have loved me and have left me — he could 
not have loved me and have looked at me so ! " 

She was weeping hysterically. There was little 
he could say to comfort her. Presently she dried 
her tears. Warwick was reluctant to leave her in 
Pates ville. Her childish happiness had been that 
of ignorance ; she could never be happy there again. 
She had flowered in the sunlight ; she must not 
pine away in the shade. 

" If you won't come back with me, Rena, I '11 



GOD MADE US ALL 181 

send you to some school at the North, where you 
can acquire a liberal education, and prepare your- 
self for some career of usefulness. You niay 
marry a better man than even Try on." 

" No," she replied firmly, " I shall never marry 
any man, and I '11 not leave mother again. God 
is against it ; I '11 stay with my own people." 

" God has nothing to do with it," retorted War- 
wick. " God is too often a convenient stalking- 
horse for human selfishness. If there is anything 
to be done, so unjust, so despicable, so wicked that 
human reason revolts at it, there is always some 
smug hypocrite to exclaim, ' It is the will of God.' " 

" God made us all," continued Rena dreamily, 
" and for some good purpose, though we may not 
always see it. He made some people white, and 
strong, and masterful, and — heartless. He made 
others black and homely, and poor and weak " — 

" And a lot of others ' poor white ' and shiftless," 
smiled Warwick. 

" He made us, too," continued Rena, intent upon 
her own thought, " and He must have had a reason 
for it. Perhaps He meant us to bring the others 
together in his own good time. A man may make 
a new place for himself — a woman is born and 
bound to hers. God must have meant me to stay 
here, or He would not have sent me back. I shall 
accept things as they are. Why should I seek the 
society of people whose friendship — and love — 
one little word can turn to scorn ? I was right, 
John ; I ought to have told him. Suppose he had 
married me and then had found it out? " 



182 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

To Rena's argument of divine foreordination 
Warwick attached no weight whatever. He had 
seen God's heel planted for four long years upon 
the land which had nourished slavery. Had God 
ordained the crime that the punishment might fol- 
low ? It would have been easier for Omnipotence 
to prevent the crime. The experience of his sister 
had stirred up a certain bitterness against white 
people — a feeling which he had put aside years ago, 
with his dark blood, but which sprang anew into 
life when the fact of his own origin was brought 
home to him so forcibly through his sister's misfor- 
tune. His sworn friend and promised brother-in- 
law had thrown him over promptly, upon the discov- 
ery of the hidden drop of dark blood. How many 
others of his friends would do the same, if they 
but knew of it ? He had begun to feel a little of 
the spiritual estrangement from his associates that 
he had noticed in Rena during her life at Clarence. 
The fact that several persons knew his secret had 
spoiled the fine flavor of perfect security hitherto 
marking his position. George Tryon was a man of 
honor among white men, and had deigned to extend 
the protection of his honor to Warwick as a man, 
though no longer as a friend ; to Rena as a woman, 
but not as a wife. Tryon, however, was only human, 
and who could tell when their paths in life might 
cross again, or what future temptation Tryon might 
feel to use a damaging secret to their disadvantage ? 
Warwick had cherished certain ambitions, but these 
he must now put behind him. In the obscurity of 



GOD MADE US ALL 183 

private life, his past would be of little moment ; in 
the glare of a political career, one's antecedents are 
public property, and too great a reserve in regard 
to one's past is regarded as a confession of some- 
thing discreditable. Frank, too, knew the secret 
— a good, faithful fellow, even where there was no 
obligation of fidelity ; he ought to do something for 
Frank to show their appreciation of his conduct. 
But what assurance was there that Frank would 
always be discreet about the affairs of others? 
Judge Straight knew the whole story, and old men 
are sometimes garrulous. Dr. Green suspected the 
secret ; he had a wife and daughters. If old Judge 
Straight could have known Warwick's thoughts, he 
would have realized the fulfillment of his prophecy. 
Warwick, who had builded so well for himself, had 
weakened the structure of his own life by trying to 
share his good fortune with his sister. 

" Listen, Rena," he said, with a sudden impulse, 
" we '11 go to the North or West — I '11 go with 
you — far away from the South and the Southern 
people, and start life over again. It will be easier 
for you, it will not be hard for me — I am young, 
and have means. There are no strong ties to bind 
me to the South. I would have a larger outlook 
elsewhere." 

" And what about our mother ? " asked Rena. 

It would be necessary to leave her behind, they 
both perceived clearly enough, unless they were 
prepared to surrender the advantage of their white- 
ness and drop back to the lower rank. The mother 



184 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

bore the mark of the Ethiopian — not pronouncedly, 
but distinctly ; neither would Mis' Molly, in all 
probability, care to leave home and friends and the 
graves of her loved ones. She had no mental 
resources to supply the place of these ; she was, 
moreover, too old to be transplanted ; she would 
not fit into Warwick's scheme for a new life. 

" I left her once," said Rena, " and it brought 
pain and sorrow to all three of us. She is not 
strong, and I will not leave her here to die alone. 
This shall be my home while she lives, and if 1 
leave it again, it shall be for only a short time, to 
go where I can write to her freely, and hear from 
her often. Don't worry about me, John, — I shall 
do very well." 

Warwick sighed. He was sincerely sorry to leave 
his sister, and yet he saw that for the time being 
her resolution was not to be shaken. He must bide 
his time. Perhaps, in a few months, she would tire 
of the old life. His door would be always open to 
her, and he would charge himself with her future. 

" Well, then," he said, concluding the argument, 
" we '11 say no more about it for the present. I '11 
write to you later. I was afraid that you might 
not care to go back just now, and so I brought 
your trunk along with me." 

He gave his mother the baggage-check. She 
took it across to Frank, who, during the day, 
brought the trunk from the depot. Mis' Molly 
offered to pay him for the service, but he would 
accept nothing. 



GOD MADE US ALL 185 

" Lawd, no, Mis' Molly ; I did n' hafter go out'n 
my way ter git dat trunk. I had a load er sperrit- 
bairls ter haul ter de still, an' de depot wuz right 
on my way back. It 'd be robbin' you ter take 
pay fer a little thing lack dat." 

" My son John 's here," said Mis' Molly " an' 
he wants to see you. Come into the settin'-room. 
We don't want folks to know he 's in town ; but 
you know all our secrets, an' we can trust you like 
one er the family." 

" I 'm glad to see you again, Frank," said War- 
wick, extending his hand and clasping Frank's 
warmly. " You 've grown up since I saw you last, 
but it seems you are still our good friend." 

" Our very good friend," interjected Rena. 

Frank threw her a grateful glance. " Yas, suh," 
he said, looking Warwick over with a friendly eye, 
"an' you is growed some, too. I seed you, you 
know, down dere where you live ; but I did n' let 
on, fer you an' Mis' Rena wuz w'ite as anybody ; 
an' eve'ybody said you wuz good ter cullud folks, 
an' he'ped 'em in deir lawsuits an' one way er 
'nuther, an' I wuz jes' plum' glad ter see you get- 
tin' 'long so fine, dat I wuz, certain sho', an' no 
mistake about it." 

" Thank you, Frank, and I want you to under- 
stand how much I appreciate " — 

" How much we all appreciate," corrected Rena. 

" Yes, how much we all appreciate, and how 
grateful we all are for your kindness to mother for 
so many years. I know from her and from my 
sister how good you 've been to them." 



186 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

" Lawd, suh ! " returned Frank deprecatingly, 
" you 're makin' a mountain out'n a molehill. I 
ain't done nutkin' ter speak of — not half ez much 
ez I would 'a' done. I wuz glad ter do w'at little 
I could, fer frien'ship's sake." 

" We value your friendship, Frank, and we '11 
not forget it." 

" No, Frank," added Rena, " we will never for- 
get it, and you shall always be our good friend." 

Frank left the room and crossed the street with 
swelling heart. He would have given his life for 
Rena. A kind word was doubly sweet from her 
lips ; no service would be too great to pay for her 
friendship. 

When Frank went out to the stable next morn- 
ing to feed his mule, his eyes opened wide with 
astonishment. In place of the decrepit, one-eyed 
army mule he had put up the night before, a fat, 
sleek specimen of vigorous mulehood greeted his 
arrival with the sonorous hehaw of lusty youth. 
Hanging on a peg near by was a set of fine new 
harness, and standing under the adjoining shed, as 
he perceived, a handsome new cart. 

" Well, well ! " exclaimed Frank ; " ef I did n' 
mos' know whar dis mule, an' dis kyart, an' dis 
harness come from, I 'd 'low dere 'd be'n witchcraf ' 
er cunjin' wukkin' here. But, oh my, dat is a 
fine mule ! — I mos' wush I could keep 'im." 

He crossed the road to the house behind the 
cedars, and found Mis' Molly in the kitchen. 



GOD MADE US ALL 187 

" Mis' Molly," he protested, " I ain't done nutliin' 
ter deserve dat mule. Wat little I done fer you 
wa'n't done fer pay. I 'd rutner not keep deni 
things." 

" Fer goodness' sake, Frank ! " exclaimed his 
neighbor, with a well-simulated air of mystification, 
" what are you talkin' about ? " 

" You knows w'at I 'm talkin' about, Mis' 
Molly ; you knows well ernuff I 'm talkin' about 
dat fine mule an' kyart an' harness over dere in 
my stable." 

"How should I, know anything about 'em?" 
she asked. 

" Now, Mis' Molly ! You folks is jes' tryin' ter 
fool me, an' make me take somethin' fer nuthin'. 
I lef my ole mule an' kyart an' harness in de 
stable las' night, an' dis mawnin' dey 're gone, an' 
new ones in deir place. Co'se you knows whar 
dey come from ! " 

" Well, now, Frank, sence you mention it, I did 
see a witch flyin' roun' here las' night on a broom- 
stick, an' it 'peared ter me she lit on yo'r barn, an' 
I s'pose she turned yo'r old things into new ones. 
I would n't bother my mind about it if I was you, 
for she may turn 'em back any night, you know ; 
an' you might as well have the use of 'em in the 
mean while." 

" Dat 's all foolishness, Mis' Molly, an' I 'm 
gwine ter fetch dat mule right over here an' tell 
yo' son ter gimme my ole one back." 

" My son 's gone," she replied, " an' I don't 



188 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

know nothin' about yo'r old mule. And what 
would I do with a mule, anyhow ? I ain't got no 
barn to put him in." 

" I suspect you don't care much for us after 
all, Frank," said Rena reproachfully — she had 
come in while they were talking. " You meet 
with a piece of good luck, and you 're afraid of it, 
lest it might have come from us." 

"Now, Miss Rena, you oughtn't ter say dat," 
expostulated Frank, his reluctance yielding imme- 
diately. " I '11 keep de mule an' de kyart an' de 
harness — fac', I '11 have ter keep 'em, 'cause I 
ain't got no others. But dey 're gwine ter be yo'n 
ez much ez mine. Wenever you wants anything 
hauled, er wants yo' lot ploughed, er anything — 
dat 's yo' mule, an' I 'm yo' man an' yo' mammy's." 

So Frank went back to the stable, where he 
feasted his eyes on his new possessions, fed and 
watered the mule, and curried and brushed his 
coat until it shone like a looking-glass. 

" Now dat," remarked Peter, at the breakfast- 
table, when informed of the transaction, " is some- 
thin' lack rale w'ite folks." 

No real white person had ever given Peter a 
mule or a cart. He had rendered one of them 
unpaid service for half a lif etime, and had paid for 
the other half ; and some of them owed him sub- 
stantial sums for work performed. But " to him 
that hath shall be given " — Warwick paid for the 
mule, and the real white folks got most of the 
credit. 



XX 

DIGGING UP ROOTS 

When the first great shock of his discovery wore 
off, the fact of Rena's origin lost to Tryon some of 
its initial repugnance — indeed, the repugnance was 
not to the woman at all, as their past relations were 
evidence, but merely to the thought of her as a wife. 
It could hardly have failed to occur to so reason- 
able a man as Tryon that Rena's case could scarcely 
be unique. Surely in the past centuries of free 
manners and easy morals that had prevailed in 
remote parts of the South, there must have been 
many white persons whose origin would not have 
borne too microscopic an investigation. Family 
trees not seldom have a crooked branch ; or, to use 
a more apposite figure, many a flock has its black 
sheep. Being a man of lively imagination, Tryon 
soon found himself putting all sorts of hypothet- 
ical questions about a matter which he had already 
definitely determined. If he had married Rena in 
ignorance of her secret, and had learned it after- 
wards, would he have put her aside ? If, knowing 
her history, he had nevertheless married her, and 
she had subsequently displayed some trait of char- 
acter that would suggest the negro, could he have 



190 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

forgotten or forgiven the taint? Could he still 
have held her in love and honor? If not, could 
he have given her the outward seeming of affection, 
or could he have been more than coldly tolerant ? 
He was glad that he had been spared this ordeal. 
With an effort he put the whole matter definitely 
and conclusively aside, as he had done a hundred 
times already. 

Returning to his home, after an absence of sev- 
eral months in South Carolina, it was quite ap- 
parent to his mother's watchful eye that he was in 
serious trouble. He was absent-minded, monosyl- 
labic, sighed deeply and often, and could not always 
conceal the traces of secret tears. For Tryon was 
young, and possessed of a sensitive soul — a source 
of happiness or misery, as the Fates decree. To 
those thus dowered, the heights of rapture are 
accessible, the abysses of despair yawn threaten- 
ingly ; only the dull monotony of contentment is 
denied. 

. Mrs. Tryon vainly sought by every gentle art 
a woman knows to win her son's confidence. 
" What is the matter, George, dear ? " she would 
ask, stroking his hot brow with her small, cool 
hand as he sat moodily nursing his grief. " Tell 
your mother, George. Who else could comfort 
you so well as she ? " 

" Oh, it 's nothing, mother, — nothing at all," 
he would reply, with a forced attempt at lightness. 
" It 's only your fond imagination, you best of 
mothers." 



DIGGING UP ROOTS 191 

It was Mrs. Tryon's turn to sigh and shed 
a clandestine tear. Until her son had gone away 
on this trip to South Carolina, he had kept no 
secrets from her : his heart had been an open 
book, of which she knew every page ; now, some 
painful story was inscribed therein which he meant 
she should not read. If she could have abdicated 
her empire to Blanche Leary or have shared it 
with her, she would have yielded gracefully ; but 
very palpably some other influence than Blanche's 
had driven joy from her son's countenance and* 
lightness from his heart. 

Miss Blanche Leary, whom Tryon found in the 
house upon his return, was a demure, pretty little 
blonde, with an amiable disposition, a talent for 
society, and a pronounced* fondness for George 
Tryon. A poor girl, of an excellent family im- 
poverished by the war, she was distantly related 
to Mrs. Tryon, had for a long time enjoyed that 
lady's favor, and was her choice for George's wife 
when he should be old enough to marry. A woman 
less interested than Miss Leary would have per- 
ceived that there was something wrong with Tryon. 
Miss Leary had no doubt that there was a woman 
at the bottom of it, — for about what else should 
youth worry but love ? or if one's love affairs run 
smoothly, why should one worry about anything 
at all ? Miss Leary, in the nineteen years of her 
mundane existence, had not been without mild ex- 
periences of the heart, and had hovered for some 



192 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS. 

time on the verge of disappointment with respect 
to Tryon himself. A sensitive pride would have 
driven more than one woman away at the sight of 
the man of her preference sighing like a furnace 
for some absent fair one. But Mrs. Tryon was 
so cordial, and insisted so strenuously upon her 
remaining, that Blanche's love, which was strong, 
conquered her pride, which was no more than a rea- 
sonable young woman ought to have who sets suc- 
cess above mere sentiment. She remained in the 
house and bided her opportunity. If George prac- 
tically ignored her for a time, she did not throw 
herself at all in his way. She went on a visit to 
some girls in the neighborhood and remained away 
a week, hoping that she might be missed. Tryon 
expressed no regret at her departure and no par- 
ticular satisfaction upon her return. If the house 
was duller in her absence, he was but dimly con- 
scious of the difference. He was still fighting a 
battle in which a susceptible heart and a reason- 
able mind had locked horns in a well-nigh hopeless 
conflict. Reason, common-sense, the instinctive 
ready-made judgments of his training and environ- 
ment, — the deep-seated prejudices of race and 
caste, — commanded him to dismiss Rena from 
his thoughts. His stubborn heart simply would 
not let go. 



XXI 

A GILDED OPPORTUNITY 

Although the whole fabric of Rena's new life 
toppled and fell with her lover's defection, her sym- 
pathies, broadened by culture and still more by 
her recent emotional experience, did not shrink, as 
would have been the case with a more selfish soul, 
to the mere limits of her personal sorrow, great as 
this seemed at the moment. She had learned to 
love, and when the love of one man failed her, she 
turned to humanity, as a stream obstructed in its 
course overflows the adjacent country. Her early 
training had not directed her thoughts to the darker 
people with whose fate her own was bound up so 
closely, but rather away from them. She had been 
taught to despise them because they were not so 
white as she was^ and had been slaves while she was 
free. Her life in her brother's home, by removing 
her from immediate contact with them, had given 
her a different point of view, — one which empha- 
sized their shortcomings, and thereby made vastly 
clearer to her the gulf that separated them from 
the new world in which she lived ; so that when 
misfortune threw her back upon them, the reaction 
brought her nearer than before. Where once she 
had seemed able to escape from them, they were 



194 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

now, it appeared, her inalienable race. Thus doubly 
equipped, she was able to view them at once with 
the mental eye of an outsider and the sympathy 
of a sister : she could see their faults, and judge 
them charitably ; she knew and appreciated their 
good qualities. With her quickened intelligence 
she could perceive how great was their need and 
how small their opportunity ; and with this illumi- 
nation came the desire to contribute to their help. 
She had not the breadth or culture to see in all its 
ramifications the great problem which still puzzles 
statesmen and philosophers ; but she was conscious 
of the wish, and of the power, in a small way, to do 
something for the advancement of those who had 
just set their feet upon the ladder of progress. 

This new-born desire to be of service to her re- 
discovered people was not long without an oppor- 
tunity for expression. Yet the Fates willed that 
her future should be but another link in a con- 
nected chain : she was to be as powerless to put 
aside her recent past as she had been to escape 
from the influence of her earlier life. There are 
sordid souls that eat and drink and breed and die, 
and imagine they have lived. But Rena's life 
since her great awakening had been that of the 
emotions, and her temperament made of it a con- 
tinuous life. Her successive states of conscious- 
ness were not detachable, but united to form a 
single if not an entirely harmonious whole. To 
her sensitive spirit to-day was born of yesterday, 
to-morrow would be but the offspring of to-day. 



A GILDED OPPORTUNITY 195 

One day, along toward noon, her mother re- 
ceived a visit from Mary B. Pettifoot, a second 
cousin, who lived on Back Street, only a short 
distance from the house behind the cedars. Rena 
had gone out, so that the visitor found Mis' Molly 
alone. 

" I heared you say, Cousin Molly," said Mary 
B. (no one ever knew what the B. in Mary's name 
stood for, — it was a mere ornamental flourish), 
" that Rena was talkin' 'bout teachin' school. I've 
got a good chance fer her, ef she keers ter take 
it. My cousin Jeff Wain 'rived in town this 
mo'nin', f'm 'way down in Sampson County, ter 
git a teacher fer the nigger school in his deestric'. 
I s'pose he mought 'a' got one f'm 'roun' Newbern, 
er Goldsboro, er some er them places eas', but he 
'lowed he 'd like to visit some er his kin an' ole 
frien's, an' so kill two birds with one stone." 

" I seed a strange mulatter man, with a bay hoss 
an' a new buggy, drivin' by here this mo'nin' early, 
from down to'ds the river," rejoined Mis' Molly. 
" I wonder if that wuz him ? " 

" Did he have on a linen duster ? " asked Mary B. 

" Yas, an' 'peared to be a very well sot up man," 
replied Mis' Molly, " 'bout thirty-five years old, I 
should reckon." 

" That wuz him," assented Mary B. " He 's got 
a fine hoss an' buggy, an' a gol' watch an' chain, 
an' a big plantation, an' lots er hosses an' mules 
an' cows an' hawgs. He raise' fifty bales er cotton 
las' year, an' he 's be'n ter the legislatur'." 



196 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

" My gracious ! " exclaimed Mis' Molly, struck 
with awe at this catalogue of the stranger's posses- 
sions — he was evidently worth more than a great 
many " rich " white people, — all white people in 
North Carolina in those days were either " rich " or 
" poor," the distinction being one of caste rather 
than of wealth. "Is he married ? " she inquired 
with interest? 

" No, — single. You mought 'low it was quare 
that he should n' be married at his age ; but he 
was crossed in love oncet," — Mary B. heaved a 
self-conscious sigh, — "an' has stayed single ever 
sence. That wuz ten years ago, but as some 
husban's is long-lived, an' there ain' no mo' chance 
fer 'im now than there wuz then, I reckon some 
nice gal mought stan' a good show er ketchin' 'im, 
ef she 'd play her kyards right." 

To Mis' Molly this was news of considerable 
importance. She had not thought a great deal of 
Rena's plan to teach ; she considered it lowering 
for Rena, after having been white, to go among 
the negroes any more than was unavoidable. This 
opportunity, however, meant more than mere em- 
ployment for her daughter. She had felt Rena's 
disappointment keenly, from the practical point of 
view, and, blaming herself for it, held herself all 
the more bound to retrieve the misfortune in any 
possible way. If she had not been sick, Rena 
would not have dreamed the fateful dream that 
had brought her to Patesville ; for the connection 
between the vision and the reality was even closer in 



A GILDED OPPORTUNITY 197 

Mis' Molly's eyes than in Rena's. If the mother 
had not sent the letter announcing her illness and 
confirming the dream, Rena would not have ruined 
her promising future by coming to Patesville. But 
the harm had been done, and she was responsible, 
ignorantly of course, but none the less truly, and 
it only remained for her to make amends, as far as* 
possible. Her highest ambition, since Rena had 
grown up, had been to see her married and com- 
fortably settled in life. She had no hope that 
Tryon would come back. Rena had declared that 
she would make no further effort to get away from 
her people ; and, furthermore, that she would never 
marry. To this latter statement Mis' Molly secretly 
attached but little importance. That a woman 
should go single from the cradle to the grave did 
not accord with her experience in lif e of the customs 
of North Carolina. She respected a grief she could 
not entirely fathom, yet did not for a moment 
believe that Rena would remain unmarried. 

" You 'd better fetch him roun' to see me, Ma'y 
B.," she said, " an' let 's see what he looks like. 
I 'm pertic'lar 'bout my gal. She says she ain't 
goin' to marry nobody ; but of co'se we know that 's 
all foolishness." 

" I '11 fetch him roun' this evenin' 'bout three 
o'clock," said the visitor, rising. " I urns' hurry 
back now an' keep him comp'ny. Tell Rena ter 
put on her bes' bib an' tucker ; for Mr. Wain is 
pertic'lar too, an' I 've already be'n braggin' 'bout 
her looks." 



198 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

When Mary B., at the appointed hour, knocked 
at Mis' Molly's front door, — the visit being one of 
ceremony, she had taken her cousin round to the 
Front Street entrance and through the flower 
garden, — Mis' Molly was prepared to receive them. 
After a decent interval, long enough to suggest 
that she had not been watching their approach and 
was not over-eager about the visit, she answered 
the knock and admitted them into the parlor. Mr. 
Wain was formally introduced, and seated himself 
on the ancient haircloth sofa, under the framed 
fashion-plate, while Mary B. sat by the open door 
and fanned herself with a palm-leaf fan. 

Mis' Molly's impression of Wain was favorable. 
His complexion was of a light brown — not quite 
so fair as Mis' Molly would have preferred; but 
any deficiency in this regard, or in the matter of 
the stranger's features, which, while not unpleas- 
ing, leaned toward the broad mulatto type, was 
more than compensated in her eyes by very 
straight black hair, and, as soon appeared, a great 
facility of complimentary speech. On his introduc- 
tion Mr. Wain bowed low, assumed an air of great 
admiration, and expressed his extreme delight in 
making the acquaintance of so distinguished-look- 
ing a lady. 

"You're flatt'rin' me, Mr. Wain," returned Mis' 
Molly, with a gratified smile. " But you want to 
meet my daughter befo' you commence th'owin' 
bokays. Excuse my leavin' you — I '11 go an' fetch 
her." 



A GILDED OPPORTUNITY 199 

She returned in a moment, followed by Rena. 
" Mr. Wain, 'low me to int'oduce you to my daugh- 
ter Rena. Rena, this is Ma'y B.'s cousin on her 
pappy's side, who 's come up from Sampson to git 
a school-teacher." 

Rena bowed gracefully. Wain stared a moment 
in genuine astonishment, and then bent himself 
nearly double, keeping his eyes fixed meanwhile 
upon Rena's face. He had expected to see a pretty 
yellow girl, but had been prepared for no such 
radiant vision of beauty as this which now con- 
fronted him. 

" Does — does you mean ter say, Mis' Walden, 
dat — dat dis young lady is yo' own daughter ? " 
he stammered, rallying his forces for action. 

"Why not, Mr. Wain?" asked Mis' Molly, 
bridling with mock resentment. " Do you mean 
ter 'low that she wuz changed in her cradle, er is 
she too good-lookiu' to be my daughter ? " 

" My deah Mis' Walden ! it 'ud be wastin' wo'ds 
fer me ter say dat dey ain' no young lady too good- 
lookin' ter be yo' daughter ; but you 're lookin' 
so young yo'sef dat I 'd ruther take her fer yo' 
sister." 

"Yas," rejoined Mis' Molly, with animation, 
" they ain't many years between us. I wuz ruther 
young myself when she wuz bo'n." 

"An', mo'over," Wain went on, "it takes me 
a minute er so ter git my min' use' ter thinkin' er 
Mis' Rena as a cullud young lady. I mought 'a' 
seed her a hund'ed times, an' I 'd 'a' never dreamt 



200 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

but w'at she wuz a w'ite young lady, f 'm one er de 
bes' families." 

"Yas, Mr. Wain," replied Mis' Molly com- 
placently, " all three er my child'en wuz white, an' 
one of 'em has be'n on the other side fer many 
long years. Rena has be'n to school, an' has 
traveled, an' has had chances — better chances than 
anybody roun' here knows." 

" She 's jes' de lady I 'm lookin' fer, ter teach ou' 
school," rejoined Wain, with emphasis. " Wid 
her schoolin' an' my riccommen', she kin git a fus'- 
class ce'tifikit an' draw fo'ty dollars a month ; an' 
a lady er her color kin keep a lot er little niggers 
straighter 'n a darker lady could. We jus' got ter 
have her ter teach ou' school — ef we kin git her." 

Rena's interest in the prospect of employment 
at her chosen work was so great that she paid little 
attention to Wain's compliments. Mis' Molly led 
Mary B. away to the kitchen on some pretext, and 
left Rena to entertain the gentleman. She ques- 
tioned him eagerly about the school, and he gave 
the most glowing accounts of the elegant school- 
house, the bright pupils, and the congenial society 
of the neighborhood. He spoke almost entirely in 
superlatives, and, after making due allowance for 
what Rena perceived to be a temperamental tend- 
ency to exaggeration, she concluded that she would 
find in the school a worthy field of usefulness, and 
in this polite and good-natured though somewhat 
wordy man a coadjutor upon whom she could rely 
in her first efforts : for she was not over-confident 



A GILDED OPPORTUNITY 201 

of her powers, which seemed to grow less as the 
way opened for their exercise. 

" Do you think I 'm competent to teach the 
school ? " she asked of the visitor, after stating 
some of her qualifications. 

" Oh, dere 's no doubt about it, Miss Rena," re- 
plied Wain, who had listened with an air of great 
wisdom, though secretly aware that he was too 
ignorant of letters to form a judgment ; " you kin 
teach de school all right, an' could ef you did n't 
know half ez much. You won't have no trouble 
managin' de child'en, nuther. Ef any of 'em gits 
onruly, jes' call on me fer he'p, an' I '11 make 'em 
walk Spanish. I 'm chuhman er de school com- 
mittee, an' I '11 lam de hide off'n any scholar dat 
don' behave. You kin trus' me fer dat, sho' ez 
I'm a-settin' here." 

" Then," said Rena, " I '11 undertake it, and do 
my best. I 'm sure you '11 not be too exacting." 

" Yo' bes', Miss Rena, '11 be de bes' dey is. 
Don' you worry ner fret. Dem niggers won't 
have no other teacher after dey 've once laid eyes 
on you : I '11 guarantee dat. Dere won't be no 
trouble, not a bit." 

" Well, Cousin Molly," said Mary B. to Mis' 
Molly in the kitchen, " how does the plan strike 
you ? " 

" Ef Rena 's satisfied, I am," replied Mis' Molly. 
" But you 'd better say nothin' about ketchin' a 
beau, or any such foolishness, er else she 'd be just 
as likely not to go nigh Sampson County." 



202 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

" Befo' Cousin Jeff goes back," confided Mary 
B., " I 'd like ter give 'im a party, but my house 
is too small. I wuz wonderin'," she added tenta- 
tively, " ef I could n' borry yo' house." 

" Shorely, Ma'y B. I 'm int'rested in Mr. 
Wain on Rena's account, an' it 's as little as I kin 
do to let you use my house an' help you git things 
ready." 

The date of the party was set for Thursday 
night, as Wain was to leave Patesville on Friday 
morning, taking with him the new teacher. The 
party would serve the double purpose of a compli- 
ment to the guest and a farewell to Rena, and it 
might prove the precursor, the mother secretly 
hoped, of other festivities to follow at some later 
date. 



XXII 

IMPERATIVE BUSINESS 

One Wednesday morning, about six weeks after 
his return home, Tryon received a letter from 
Judge Straight with reference to the note left 
with him at Pates vi lie for collection. This com- 
munication properly required an answer, which 
might have been made in writing within the com- 
pass of ten lines. No sooner, however, had Tryon 
read the letter than he began to perceive reasons 
why it should be answered in person. He had 
left Patesville under extremely painful circum- 
stances, vowing that he would never return ; and 
yet now the barest pretext, by which no one could 
have been deceived except willingly, was sufficient 
to turn his footsteps thither again. He explained 
to his mother — with a vagueness which she found 
somewhat puzzling, but ascribed to her own femi- 
nine obtuseness in matters of business — the rea- 
sons that imperatively demanded his presence in 
Patesville. With an early start he could drive 
there in one day, — he had an excellent roadster, 
a light buggy, and a recent rain had left the road 
in good condition, — a day would suffice for the 
transaction of his business, and the third day 



204 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

would bring him home again. He set out on 
his journey on Thursday morning, with this pro- 
gramme very clearly outlined. 

Tryon would not at first have admitted even to 
himself that Rena's presence in Patesville had any 
bearing whatever upon his projected visit. The 
matter about which Judge Straight had written 
might, it was clear, be viewed in several aspects. 
The judge had written him concerning the one of 
immediate importance. It would be much easier 
to discuss the subject in all its bearings, and clean 
up the whole matter, in one comprehensive per- 
sonal interview. 

The importance of this business, then, seemed 
very urgent for the first few hours of Tryon's 
journey. Ordinarily a careful driver and merci- 
ful to his beast, his eagerness to reach Patesville 
increased gradually until it became necessary to 
exercise some self-restraint in order not to urge 
his faithful mare beyond her powers ; and soon he 
could no longer pretend obliviousness of the fact 
that some attraction stronger than the whole 
amount of Duncan McSwayne's note was urging 
him irresistibly toward his destination. The old 
town beyond the distant river, his heart told him 
clamorously, held the object in all the world to 
him most dear. Memory brought up in vivid de- 
tail every moment of his brief and joyous court- 
ship, — each tender word, each enchanting smile, 
every fond caress. He lived his past happiness 
over again down to the moment of that fatal dis- 



IMPERATIVE BUSINESS 205 

covery. What horrible fate was it that had in- 
volved him — nay, that had caught this sweet 
delicate girl in such a blind alley ? A wild hope 
flashed across his mind : perhaps the ghastly story 
might not be true ; perhaps, after all, the girl was 
no more a negro than she seemed. He had heard 
sad stories of white children, born out of wedlock, 
abandoned by sinful parents to the care or adop- 
tion of colored women, who had reared them as 
their own, the children's future basely sacrificed to 
hide the parents' shame. He would confront this 
reputed mother of his darling and wring the truth 
from her. He was in a state of mind where any 
sort of a fairy tale would have seemed reasonable. 
He would almost have bribed some one to tell him 
that the woman he had loved, the woman he still 
loved (he felt a thrill of lawless pleasure in the 
confession), was not the descendant of slaves, — 
that he might marry her, and not have before his 
eyes the gruesome fear that some one of their 
children might show even the faintest mark of the 
despised race. 

At noon he halted at a convenient hamlet, fed 
and watered his mare, and resumed his journey 
after an hour's rest. By this time he had well- 
nigh forgotten about the legal business that formed 
the ostensible occasion for his journey, and was 
conscious only of a wild desire to see the woman 
whose image was beckoning liim on to Patesville 
as fast as his horse could take him. 

At sundown he stopped again, about ten miles 



206 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

from the town, and cared for his now tired beast. 
He knew her capacity, however, and calculated 
that she could stand the additional ten miles with- 
out injury. The mare set out with reluctance, 
but soon settled resignedly down into a steady jog. 
Memory had hitherto assailed Tryon with the 
vision of past joys. As he neared the town, 
imagination attacked him with still more moving 
images. He had left her, this sweet flower of 
womankind — white or not, God had never made 
a fairer ! — he had seen her fall to the hard pave- 
ment, with he knew not what resulting injury. 
He had left her tender frame — the touch of her 
finger-tips had made him thrill with happiness — 
to be lifted by strange hands, while he with heart- 
less pride had driven deliberately away, without a 
word of sorrow or regret. He had ignored her as 
completely as though she had never existed. That 
he had been deceived was true. But had he not 
aided in his own deception ? Had not Warwick 
told him distinctly that they were of no family, 
and was it not his own fault that he had not fol- 
lowed up the clue thus given him ? Had not Rena 
compared herself to the child's nurse, and had 
he not assured her that if she were the nurse, he 
would marry her next day? The deception had 
been due more to his own blindness than to any 
lack of honesty on the part of Eena and her 
brother. In the light of his present feelings they 
seemed to have been absurdly outspoken. He 
was glad that he had kept his discovery to him- 



IMPERATIVE BUSINESS 207 

self. He had considered himself very magnani- 
mous not to have exposed the fraud that was 
being perpetrated upon society : it was with a very 
comfortable feeling that he now realized that the 
matter was as profound a secret as before. 

" She ought to have been born white," he mut- 
tered, adding weakly, " I would to God that I had 
never found her out ! " 

Drawing near the bridge that crossed the river 
to the town, he pictured to himself a pale girl, 
with sorrowful, tear-stained eyes, pining away in 
the old gray house behind the cedars for love of 
him, dying, perhaps, of a broken heart. He would 
hasten to her ; he would dry her tears with kisses ; 
he would express sorrow for his cruelty. 

The tired mare had crossed the bridge and was 
slowly toiling up Front Street ; she was near the 
limit of her endurance, and Try on did not urge 
her. 

They might talk the matter over, and if they 
must part, part at least they would in peace and 
friendship. If he could not marry her, he would 
never marry any one else ; it would be cruel for 
him to seek happiness while she was denied it, 
for, having once given her heart to him, she could 
never, he was sure, — so instinctively fine was 
her nature, — she could never love any one less 
worthy than himself, and would therefore probably 
never marry. He knew from a Clarence acquaint- 
ance, who had written him a letter, that Rena had 
not reappeared in that town. 



208 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

If he should discover — the chance was one in 
a thousand — that she was white ; or if he should 
find it too hard to leave her — ah, well ! he was a 
white man, one of a race born to command. He 
would make her white ; no one beyond the old 
town would ever know the difference. If, perchance, 
their secret should be disclosed, the world was 
wide ; a man of courage and ambition, inspired by 
love, might make a career anywhere. Circum- 
stances made weak men ; strong men mould cir- 
cumstances to do their bidding. He would not 
let his darling die of grief, whatever the price 
must be paid for her salvation. She was only a 
few rods away from him now. In a moment he 
would see her ; he would take her tenderly in his 
arms, and heart to heart they would mutually for- 
give and forget, and, strengthened by their love, 
would face the future boldly and bid the world do 
its worst. 



XXIII 

THE GUEST OF HONOR 

The evening of the party arrived. The house 
had been thoroughly cleaned in preparation for the 
event, and decorated with the choicest treasures of 
the garden. By eight o'clock the guests had gath- 
ered. They were all mulattoes, — all people of 
mixed blood were called " mulattoes " in North 
Carolina. There were dark mulattoes and bright 
mulattoes. Mis' Molly's guests were mostly of the 
bright class, most of them more than half white, 
and few of them less. In Mis' Molly's small circle, 
straight hair was the only palliative of a dark 
complexion. Many of the guests would not have 
been casually distinguishable from white people of 
the poorer class. Others bore unmistakable traces 
of Indian ancestry, — for Cherokee and Tuscarora 
blood was quite widely diffused among the free 
negroes of North Carolina, though well-nigh lost 
sight of by the curious custom of the white people 
to ignore anything but the negro blood in those 
who were touched by its potent current. Very few 
of those present had been slaves. The free colored 
people of Patesville were numerous enough before 
the war to have their own " society," and human 



210 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

enough to despise those who did not possess advan- 
tages equal to their own ; and at this time they still 
looked down upon those who had once been held in 
bondage. The only black man present occupied a 
chair which stood on a broad chest in one corner, 
and extracted melody from a fiddle to which a 
whole generation of the best people of Patesville 
had danced and made merry. Uncle Needham 
seldom played for colored gatherings, but made an 
exception in Mis' Molly's case ; she was not white, 
but he knew her past; if she was not the rose, 
she had at least been near the rose. When the 
company had gathered, Mary B., as mistress of 
ceremonies, whispered to Uncle Needham, who 
tapped his violin sharply with the bow. 

" Ladies an' gent'emens, take yo' pa'dners fer a 
Fuhginny reel! " 

Mr. Wain, as the guest of honor, opened the 
ball with his hostess. He wore a broadcloth coat 
and trousers, a heavy glittering chain across the 
spacious front of his white waistcoat, and a large 
red rose in his buttonhole. If his boots were 
slightly run down at the heel, so trivial a detail 
passed unnoticed in the general splendor of his 
attire. Upon a close or hostile inspection there 
would have been some features of his ostensibly 
good-natured face — the shifty eye, the full and 
slightly drooping lower lip — which might have 
given a student of physiognomy food for reflection. 
But whatever the latent defects of Wain's char- 
acter, he proved himself this evening a model of 



THE GUEST OF HONOR 211 

geniality, presuming not at all upon his reputed 
wealth, but winning golden opinions from those 
who came to criticise, of whom, of course, there 
were a few, the company being composed of human 
beings. 

When the dance began, Wain extended his 
large, soft hand to Mary B., yellow, buxom, thirty, 
with white and even teeth glistening behind her 
full red lips. A younger sister of Mary B.'s was 
paired with Billy Oxendine, a funny little tailor, 
a great gossip, and therefore a favorite among the 
women. Mis' Molly graciously consented, after 
many protestations of lack of skill and want of 
practice, to stand up opposite Homer Pettifoot, 
Mary B.'s husband, a tall man, with a slight stoop, 
a bald crown, and full, dreamy eyes, — a man of 
much imagination and a large fund of anecdote. 
Two other couples completed the set ; others were 
restrained by bashfulness or religious scruples, 
which did not yield until later in the evening. 

The perfumed air from the garden without and 
the cut roses within mingled incongruously with the 
alien odors of musk and hair oil, of which several 
young barbers in the company were especially re- 
dolent. There was a play of sparkling eyes and 
glancing feet. Mary B. danced with the languor- 
ous grace of an Eastern odalisque, Mis' Molly with 
the mincing, hesitating step of one long out of prac- 
tice. Wain performed saltatory prodigies. This 
was a golden opportunity for the display in which 
his soul found delight. He introduced variations 



212 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

hitherto unknown to the dance. His skill and 
suppleness brought a glow of admiration into the 
eyes of the women, and spread a cloud of jealousy 
over the faces of several of the younger men, who 
saw themselves eclipsed. 

Rena had announced in advance her intention 
to take no active part in the festivities. " I don't 
feel like dancing, mamma — I shall never dance 
again." 

" Well, now, Rena," answered her mother, " of 
co'se you 're too dignified, sence you 've be'n 'socia- 
tin' with white folks, to be hoppin' roun' an' kick- 
in' up like Ma'y B. an' these other yaller gals ; 
but of co'se, too, you can't slight the comp'ny en- 
tirely, even ef it ain't jest exac'ly our party, — 
you '11 have to pay 'em some little attention, 'spe- 
cially Mr. Wain, sence you 're goin' down yonder 
with 'im." 

Rena conscientiously did what she thought po- 
liteness required. She went the round of the guests 
in the early part of the evening and exchanged 
greetings with them. To several requests for dances 
she replied that she was not dancing. She did not 
hold herself aloof because of pride ; any instinctive 
shrinking she might have felt by reason of her re- 
cent association with persons of greater refinement 
was offset by her still more newly awakened zeal 
for humanity ; they were her people, she must not 
despise them. But the occasion suggested pain- 
ful memories of other and different scenes in 
which she had lately participated. Once or twice 



THE GUEST OF HONOR 213 

these memories were so vivid as almost to over- 
power her. She slipped away from the company, 
and kept in the background as much as possible 
without seeming to slight any one. 

The guests as well were dimly conscious of a 
slight barrier between Mis' Molly's daughter and 
themselves. The time she had spent apart from 
these friends of her youth had rendered it impossi- 
ble for her ever to meet them again upon the plane 
of common interests and common thoughts. It 
was much as though one, having acquired the ver- 
nacular of his native country, had lived in a foreign 
land long enough to lose the language of his child- 
hood without acquiring fully that of his adopted 
country. Miss Rowena Warwick could never again 
become quite the Rena Walden who had left the 
house behind the cedars no more than a year and 
a half before. Upon this very difference were 
based her noble aspirations for usefulness, — one 
must stoop in order that one may lift others. Any 
other young woman present would have been impor- 
tuned beyond her powers of resistance. Rena's 
reserve was respected. 

When supper was announced, somewhat early in 
the evening, the dancers found seats in the hall or 
on the front piazza. Aunt Zilphy, assisted by Mis' 
Molly and Mary B., passed around the refresh- 
ments, which consisted of fried chicken, buttered 
biscuits, pound-cake, and eggnog. When the first 
edge of appetite was taken off, the conversation 
waxed animated. Homer Pettifoot related, with 



214 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

minute detail, an old, threadbare hunting lie, dat- 
ing, in slightly differing forms, from the age of 
Nimrod, about finding twenty-five partridges sit- 
ting in a row on a rail, and killing them all with a 
single buckshot, which passed through twenty-four 
and lodged in the body of the twenty-fifth, from 
which it was extracted and returned to the shot- 
pouch for future service. 

This story was followed by a murmur of in- 
credulity — of course, the thing was possible, but 
Homer's faculty for exaggeration was so well 
known that any statement of his was viewed with 
suspicion. Homer seemed hurt at this lack of 
faith, and was disposed to argue the point ; but 
the sonorous voice of Mr. Wain on the other side 
of the room cut short his protestations, in much 
the same way that the rising sun extinguishes the 
light of lesser luminaries. 

" I wuz a member er de fus' legislatur' after de 
wah," Wain was saying. " When I went up f'm 
Sampson in de fall, I had to pass th'ough Smith- 
fiel'. I got in town in de afternoon, an' put up at 
de bes' hotel. De lan'lo'd did n' have no s'picion 
but what I wuz a white man, an' he gimme a room, 
an' I had supper an' breakfas', an' went on ter 
Roily nex' mornin'. W'en de session wuz over, 
I come along back, an' w'en I got ter Smithfiel', I 
driv' up ter de same hotel. I noticed, as soon as I 
got dere, dat de place had run down consid'able — 
dere wuz weeds growin' in de yard, de winders wuz 
dirty, an' ev'ything roun' dere looked kinder lone- 



THE GUEST OF HONOR 215 

some an' shif'less. De lan'lo'd met me at de do'; 
he looked mighty down in de mouth, an' sezee : — 

" ' Look a-here, w'at made you come an' stop at 
my place widout tellin' me you wuz a black man ? 
Befo' you come th'ough dis town I had a fus'-class 
business. But w'en folks found out dat a nig- 
ger had put up here, business drapped right off, 
an' I 've had ter shet up my hotel. You oughter 
be 'shamed er yo'se'f fer ruinin' a po' man w'at 
had n' never done no harm ter you. You 've done 
a mean, low-lived thing, an' a jes' God '11 punish 
you fer it.' 

" De po' man acshully bust inter tears," con- 
tinued Mr. Wain magnanimously, " an' I felt so 
sorry fer 'im — he wuz a po' white man tryin' ter 
git up in de worl' — dat I hauled out my purse 
an' gin 'im ten dollars, an' he 'peared monst'ous 
glad ter git it." 

" How good-hearted ! How kin' ! " murmured 
the ladies. " It done credit to yo' feelin's." 

" Don't b'lieve a word er dem lies," muttered 
one young man to another sarcastically. " He 
could n' pass fer white, 'less'n it wuz a mighty dark 
night." 

Upon this glorious evening of his life, Mr. 
Jefferson Wain had one distinctly hostile critic, 
of whose presence he was blissfully unconscious. 
Frank Fowler had not been invited to the party, — 
his family did not go with Mary B.'s set. Rena 
had suggested to her mother that he be invited, 
but Mis' Molly had demurred on the ground that 



216 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

it was not her party, and that she had no right to 
issue invitations. It is quite likely that she would 
have sought an invitation for Frank from Mary 
B. ; but Frank was black, and would not harmonize 
with the rest of the company, who would not have 
Mis' Molly's reasons for treating him well. She 
had compromised the matter by stepping across the 
way in the afternoon and suggesting that Frank 
might come over and sit on the back porch and 
look at the dancing and share in the supper. 

Frank was not without a certain honest pride. 
He was sensitive enough, too, not to care to go 
where he was not wanted. He would have curtly 
refused any such maimed invitation to any other 
place. But would he not see Eena in her best 
attire, and might she not perhaps, in passing, speak 
a word to him ? 

"Thank y', Mis' Molly," he replied, "I'll 
prob'ly come over." 

" You 're a big fool, boy," observed his father after 
Mis' Molly had gone back across the street, " ter 
be stickin' roun' dem yaller niggers 'cross de street, 
an' slobb'rin' an' slav'rin' over 'em, an' hangin' 
roun' deir back do' wuss 'n ef dey wuz w'ite folks. 
I 'd see 'em dead fus' ! " 

Frank himself resisted the temptation for half 
an hour after the music began, but at length he 
made his way across the street and stationed him- 
self at the window opening upon the back piazza. 
When Rena was in the room, he had eyes for her 
only, but when she was absent, he fixed his at- 



THE GUEST OF HONOR 217 

tention mainly upon Wain. "With jealous clair- 
voyance he observed that Wain's eyes followed 
Rena when she left the room, and lit up when she 
returned. Frank had heard that Rena was going 
away with this man, and he watched Wain closely, 
liking him less the longer he looked at him. To 
his fancy, Wain's style and skill were affectation, 
his good-nature mere hypocrisy, and his glance at 
Rena the eye of the hawk upon his quarry. He 
had heard that Wain was unmarried, and he could 
not see how, this being so, he could help wishing 
Rena for a wife. Frank would have been content 
to see her marry a white man, who would have 
raised her to a plane worthy of her merits. In 
this man's shifty eye he read the liar — his wealth 
and standing were probably as false as his seem- 
ing good-humor. 

" Is that you, Frank ? " said a soft voice near at 
hand. 

He looked up with a joyful thrill. Rena was 
peering intently at him, as if trying to distinguish 
his features in the darkness. It was a bright 
moonlight night, but Frank stood in the shadow of 
the piazza. 

" Yas 'm, it's me, Miss Rena. Yo' mammy said 
I could come over an' see you-all dance. You ain' 
be'n out on de flo' at all, ter-night." 

" No, Frank, I don't care for dancing. I shall 
not dance to-night." 

This answer was pleasing to Frank. If he could 
not hope to dance with her, at least the men inside 



218 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

— at least this snake in the grass from down the 
country — should not have that privilege. 

" But you must have some supper, Frank," said 
Rena. " I '11 bring it myself." 

"No, Miss Rena, I don' keer fer nothin' — I 
did n' come over ter eat — r'al'y I did n't." 

" Nonsense, Frank, there 's plenty of it. I have 
no appetite, and you shall have my portion." 

She brought him a slice of cake and a glass of 
eggnog. When Mis' Molly, a minute later, came 
out upon the piazza, Frank left the yard and 
walked down the street toward the old canal. Rena 
had spoken softly to him ; she had fed him with 
her own dainty hands. He might never hope that 
she would see in him anything but a friend ; but 
he loved her, and he would watch over her and 
protect her, wherever she might be. He did not 
believe that she would ever marry the grinning 
hypocrite masquerading back there in Mis' Molly's 
parlor ; but the man would bear watching. 

Mis' Molly had come to call her daughter into 
the house. " Rena," she said, " Mr. Wain wants 
ter know if you won't dance just one dance with 
him." 

" Yas, Rena," pleaded Mary B., who followed 
Miss Molly out to the piazza, " jes' one dance. I 
don't think you 're treatin' my comp'ny jes' right, 
Cousin Rena." 

" You 're goin' down there with 'im," added her 
mother, " an' it 'd be just as well to be on friendly 
terms with 'im." 



THE GUEST OF HONOR 219 

Wain himself had followed the women. " Sho'ly, 
Miss Rena, you 're gwine ter honah me wid one 
dance ? I 'd go 'way f 'm dis pa'ty sad at hea't ef 
I had n' stood up oncet wid de young lady er de 
house." 

As Rena, weakly persuaded, placed her hand 
on Wain's arm and entered the house, a buggy, 
coming up Front Street, paused a moment at the 
corner, and then turning slowly, drove quietly up 
the nameless by-street, concealed by the interven- 
ing cedars, until it reached a point from which the 
occupant could view, through the open front window, 
the interior of the parlor. 



XXIV 

SWING YOUR PARTNERS 

Moved by tenderness and thoughts of self-sac- 
rifice, which had occupied his mind to the momen- 
tary exclusion of all else, Tryon had scarcely 
noticed, as he approached the house behind the 
cedars, a strain of lively music, to which was added, 
as he drew still nearer, the accompaniment of other 
festive sounds. He suddenly awoke, however, to 
the fact that these signs of merriment came from, 
the house at which he had intended to stop ; — 
he had not meant that Rena should pass another 
sleepless night of sorrow, or that he should himself 
endure another needless hour of suspense. 

He drew rein at the corner. Shocked surprise, 
a nascent anger, a vague alarm, an insistent curi- 
osity, urged him nearer. Turning the mare into 
the side street and keeping close to the fence, he 
drove ahead in the shadow of the cedars until he 
reached a gap through which he could see into the 
open door and windows of the brightly lighted 
hall. 

There was evidently a ball in progress. The 
fiddle was squeaking merrily to a tune that he 
remembered well, — it was associated with one of 



SWING YOUR PARTNERS 221 

the most delightful evenings of his life, that of 
the tournament ball. A mellow negro voice was 
calling with a rhyming accompaniment the figures 
of a quadrille. Tryon, with parted lips and slowly 
hardening heart, leaned forward from the buggy- 
seat, gripping the rein so tightly that his nails 
cut into the opposing palm. Above the clatter of 
noisy conversation rose the fiddler's voice : — 

" Swing 1 yo' pa'dners ; doan be shy, 
Look yo' lady in de eye ! 
Th'ow yo' ahm aroun' huh wais' ; 
Take yo' time — dey ain' no has'e I " 

To the middle of the floor, in full view through 
an open window, advanced the woman who all day 
long had been the burden of his thoughts — not 
pale with grief and hollow-eyed with weeping, but 
flushed with pleasure, around her waist the arm 
of a burly, grinning mulatto, whose face was offen- 
sively familiar to Tryon. 

With a muttered curse of concentrated bitter- 
ness, Tryon struck the mare a sharp blow with 
the whip. The sensitive creature, spirited even 
in her great weariness, resented the lash and 
started off with the bit in her teeth. Perceiving 
that it would be difficult to turn in the narrow 
roadway without running into the ditch at the 
left, Tryon gave the mare rein and dashed down 
the street, scarcely missing, as the buggy crossed 
the bridge, a man standing abstractedly by the old 
canal, who sprang aside barely in time to avoid 
being run over. 



222 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

Meantime Rena was passing through a trying 
ordeal. After the first few bars, the fiddler 
plunged into a well-known air, in which Rena, 
keenly susceptible to musical impressions, recog- 
nized the tune to which, as Queen of Love and 
Beauty, she had opened the dance at her entrance 
into the world of life and love, for it was there 
she had met George Tryon. The combination of 
music and movement brought up the scene with 
great distinctness. Tryon, peering angrily through 
the cedars, had not been more conscious than she 
of the external contrast between her partners on 
this and the former occasion. She perceived, too, 
as Tryon from the outside had not, the difference 
between Wain's wordy flattery (only saved by his 
cousin's warning from pointed and fulsome adu- 
lation), and the tenderly graceful compliment, 
couched in the romantic terms of chivalry, with 
which the knight of the handkerchief had charmed 
her ear. It was only by an immense effort that she 
was able to keep her emotions under control until 
the end of the dance, when she fled to her chamber 
and burst into tears. It was not the cruel Tryon 
who had blasted her love with his deadly look that 
she mourned, but the gallant young knight who 
had worn her favor on his lance and crowned her 
Queen of Love and Beauty. 

Tryon's stay in Patesvi^le was very brief. He 
drove to the hotel and put up for the night. Dur- 
ing many sleepless hours his mind was in a turmoil 



SWING YOUR PARTNERS 223 

with a very different set of thoughts from those 
which had occupied it on the way to town. Not 
the least of them was a profound self-contempt for 
his own lack of discernment. How had he been 
so blind as not to have read long ago the charac- 
ter of this wretched girl who had bewitched him ? 
To-night his eyes had been opened — he had seen 
her with the mask thrown off, a true daughter of 
a race in which the sensuous enjoyment of the mo- 
ment took precedence of taste or sentiment or any 
of the higher emotions. Her few months of board- 
ing-school, her brief association with white people, 
had evidently been a mere veneer over the under- 
lying negro, and their effects had slipped away as 
soon as the intercourse had ceased. With the mon- 
key-like imitativeness of the negro she had copied 
the manners of white people while she lived among 
them, and had dropped them with equal facility 
when they ceased to serve a purpose. Who but 
a negro could have recovered so soon from what 
had seemed a terrible bereavement ? — she herself 
must have felt it at the time, for otherwise she 
would not have swooned. A woman of sensibility, 
as this one had seemed to be, should naturally feel 
more keenly, and for a longer time than a man, 
an injury to the affections ; but he, a son of the 
ruling race, had been miserable for six weeks about 
a girl who had so far forgotten him as already to 
plunge headlong into the childish amusements of 
her own ignorant and degraded people. What 
more, indeed, he asked himself savagely, — what 



224 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

more could be expected of the base-born child of 
the plaything of a gentleman's idle hour, who to 
this ignoble origin added the blood of a servile 
race ? And he, George Tryon, had honored her 
with his love ; he had very nearly linked his fate 
and joined his blood to hers by the solemn sanc- 
tions of church and state. Tryon was not a devout 
man, but he thanked God with religious fervor 
that he had been saved a second time from a mis- 
take which would have wrecked his whole future. 
If he had yielded to the momentary weakness of 
the past night, — the outcome of a sickly senti- 
mentality to which he recognized now, in the light 
of reflection, that he was entirely too prone, — he 
would have regretted it soon enough. The black 
streak would have been sure to come out in some 
form, sooner or later, if not in the wife, then in 
her children. He saw clearly enough, in this hour 
of revulsion, that with his temperament and train- 
ing such a union could never have been happy. 
If all the world had been ignorant of the dark 
secret, it would always have been in his own 
thoughts, or at least never far away. Each fault 
of hers that the close daily association of husband 
and wife might reveal, — the most flawless of 
sweethearts do not pass scathless through the long 
test of matrimony, — every wayward impulse of 
his children, every defect of mind, morals, temper, 
or health, would have been ascribed to the dark 
ancestral strain. Happiness under such conditions 
would have been impossible. 



SWING YOUR PARTNERS 225 

When Tryon lay awake in the early morning, 
after a few brief hours of sleep, the business which 
had brought him to Patesville seemed, in the cold 
light of reason, so ridiculously inadequate that he 
felt almost ashamed to have set up such a pretext 
for his journey. The prospect, too, of meeting 
Dr. Green and his family, of having to explain 
his former sudden departure, and of running a 
gauntlet of inquiry concerning his marriage to the 
aristocratic Miss Warwick of South Carolina ; 
the fear that some one at Patesville might have 
suspected a connection between Rena's swoon and 
his own flight, — these considerations so moved 
this impressionable and impulsive young man that 
he called a bell-boy, demanded an early breakfast, 
ordered his horse, paid his reckoning, and started 
upon his homeward journey forthwith. A certain 
distrust of his own sensibility, which he felt to 
be curiously inconsistent with his most positive 
convictions, led him to seek the river bridge by a 
roundabout route which did not take him past the 
house where, a few hours before, he had seen the 
last fragment of his idol shattered beyond the hope 
of repair. 

The party broke up at an early hour, since most 
of the guests were working-people, and the travel- 
ers were to make an early start next day. About 
nine in the morning, Wain drove round to Mis' 
Molly's. Rena's trunk was strapped behind the 
buggy, and she set out, in the company of Wain, 



226 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

for her new field of labor. The school term was 
only two months in length, and she did not expect 
to return until its expiration. Just before taking 
her seat in the buggy, Rena felt a sudden sinking 
of the heart. 

"Oh, mother," she whispered, as they stood 
wrapped in a close embrace, " I 'm afraid to leave 
you. I left you once, and it turned out so miser- 
ably." 

" It '11 turn out better this time, honey," replied 
her mother soothingly. " Good-by, child. Take 
care of yo'self an' yo'r money, and write to yo'r 
mammy." 

One kiss all round, and Rena was lifted into 
the buggy. Wain seized the reins, and under his 
skillful touch the pretty mare began to prance and 
curvet with restrained impatience. Wain could 
not resist the opportunity to show off before the 
party, which included Mary B.'s entire family and 
several other neighbors, who had gathered to see 
the travelers off. 

" Good-by ter Pates ville ! Good-by, folkses all ! " 
he cried, with a wave of his disengaged hand. 

" Good-by, mother! Good-by, all ! " cried Rena, 
as with tears in her heart and a brave smile on her 
face she left her home behind her for the second 
time. 

When they had crossed the river bridge, the 
travelers came to a long stretch of rising ground, 
from the summit of which they could look back 
over the white sandy road for nearly a mile. 



SWING YOUR PARTNERS 227 

Neither Rena nor her companion saw Frank Fowler 
behind the chinquapin bush at the foot of the hill, 
nor the gaze of mute love and longing with which 
he watched the buggy mount the long incline. He 
had not been able to trust himself to bid her fare- 
well. He had seen her go away once before with 
every prospect of happiness, and come back, a dove 
with a wounded wing, to the old nest behind the 
cedars. She was going away again, with a man 
whom he disliked and distrusted. If she had met 
misfortune before, what were her prospects for 
happiness now? 

The buggy paused at the top of the hill, and 
Frank, shading his eyes with his hand, thought he 
could see her turn and look behind. Look back, 
dear child, towards your home and those who love 
you ! For who knows more than this faithf ul wor- 
shiper what threads of the past Fate is weaving 
into your future, or whether happiness or misery 
lies before you ? 



XXV 

BALANCE ALL 

The road to Sampson County lay for the most 
part over the pine-clad sandhills, — an alternation 
of gentle rises and gradual descents, with now and 
then a swamp of greater or less extent. Long 
stretches of the highway led through the virgin 
forest, for miles unbroken by a clearing or sign of 
human habitation. 

They traveled slowly, with frequent pauses in 
shady places, for the weather was hot. The jour- 
ney, made leisurely, required more than a day, 
and might with slight effort be prolonged into 
two. They stopped for the night at a small vil- 
lage, where Wain found lodging for Rena with an 
acquaintance of his, and for himself with another, 
while a third took charge of the horse, the accom- 
modation for travelers being limited. Rena's ap- 
pearance and manners were the subject of much 
comment. It was necessary to explain to several 
curious white people that Rena was a woman of 
color. A white woman might have driven with 
Wain without attracting remark, — most white 
ladies had negro coachmen. That a woman of 
Rena's complexion should eat at a negro's table, or 



BALANCE ALL 229 

sleep beneath a negro's roof, was a seeming breach 
of caste which only black blood could excuse. The 
explanation was never tmestioned. No white per- 
son of sound mind would ever claim to be a 
negro. 

They resumed their journey somewhat late in the 
morning. Rena would willingly have hastened, for 
she was anxious to plunge into her new work ; but 
Wain seemed disposed to prolong the pleasant drive, 
and beguiled the way for a time with stories of won- 
derful things he had done and strange experiences 
of a somewhat checkered career. He was shrewd 
enough to avoid any subject which would offend a 
modest young woman, but too obtuse to perceive 
that much of what he said would not commend 
him to a person of refinement. He made little 
reference to his possessions, concerning which so 
much had been said at Patesville ; and this reti- 
cence was a point in his favor. If he had not 
been so much upon his guard and Rena so much 
absorbed by thoughts of her future work, such a 
drive would have furnished a person of her discern- 
ment a very fair measure of the man's character. 
To these distractions must be added the entire 
absence of any idea that Wain might have amo- 
rous designs upon her ; and any shortcomings of 
manners or speech were excused by the broad man- 
tle of charity which Ren a in her new-found zeal for 
the welfare of her people was willing to throw over 
all their faults. They were the victims of oppres- 
sion ; they were not responsible for its results. 



230 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

Toward the end of the second day, while near- 
ing their destination, the travelers passed a large 
white house standing back from the road at the 
foot of a lane. Around it grew widespreading 
trees and well-kept shrubbery. The fences were 
in good repair. Behind the house and across the 
road stretched extensive fields of cotton and wav- 
ing corn. They had passed no other place that 
showed such signs of thrift and prosperity. 

" Oh, what a lovely place ! " exclaimed Eena. 
" That is yours, is n't it ? " 

" No ; we ain't got to my house yet," he an- 
swered. " Dat house b'longs ter de riches' people 
roun' here. Dat house is over in de nex' county. 
We 're right close to de line now." 

Shortly afterwards they turned off from the 
main highway they had been pursuing, and struck 
into a narrower road to the left. 

" De main road," explained Wain, " goes on to 
Clinton, 'bout five miles er mo' away. Dis one 
we 're turnin' inter now will take us to my place, 
which is 'bout three miles fu'ther on. We '11 git 
dere now in an hour er so." 

Wain lived in an old plantation house, somewhat 
dilapidated, and surrounded by an air of neglect 
and shiftlessness, but still preserving a remnant 
of dignity in its outlines and comfort in its interior 
arrangements. Rena was assigned a large room on 
the second floor. She was somewhat surprised at 
the make-up of the household. Wain's mother — 
an old woman, much darker than her son — kept 



BALANCE ALL 231 

house for him. A sister with two children lived 
in the house. The element of surprise lay in the 
presence of two small children left by Wain's wife, 
of whom Rena now heard for the first time. He 
had lost his wife, he informed Rena sadly, a couple 
of years before. 

" Yas, Miss Rena," she sighed, " de Lawd give 
her, an' de Lawd tuck her away. Blessed be de 
name er de Lawd." He accompanied this senten- 
tious quotation with a wicked look from under his 
half-closed eyelids that Rena did not see. 

The following morning Wain drove her in his 
buggy over to the county town, where she took the 
teacher's examination. She was given a seat in a 
room with a number of other candidates for cer- 
tificates, but the fact leaking out from some remark 
of Wain's that she was a colored girl, objection 
was quietly made by several of the would-be teach- 
ers to her presence in the room, and she was re- 
quested to retire until the white teachers should 
have been examined. An hour or two later she 
was given a separate examination, which she passed 
without difficulty. The examiner, a gentleman of 
local standing, was dimly conscious that she might 
not have found her exclusion pleasant, and was 
especially polite. It would have been strange, 
indeed, if he had not been impressed by her sweet 
face and air of modest dignity, which were all the 
more striking because of her social disability. He 
fell into conversation with her, became interested 
in her hopes and aims, and very cordially offered 



232 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

to be of service, if at any time he might, in con- 
nection with her school. 

" You have the satisfaction," he said, " of receiv- 
ing the only first-grade certificate issued to-day. 
You might teach a higher grade of pupils than you 
will find at Sandy Run, but let us hope that you 
may in time raise them to your own level." 

" Which I doubt very much," he muttered to 
himself, as she went away with Wain. " What a 
pity that such a woman should be a nigger ! If 
she were anything to me, though, I should hate 
to trust her anywhere near that saddle-colored 
scoundrel. He 's a thoroughly bad lot, and will 
bear watching." 

Rena, however, was serenely ignorant of any 
danger from the accommodating Wain. Absorbed 
in her own thoughts and plans, she had not sought 
to look beneath the surface of his somewhat over- 
done politeness. In a few days she began her work 
as teacher, and sought to forget in the service of 
others the dull sorrow that still gnawed at her heart. 



XXVI 

THE SCHOOLHOUSE IN THE WOODS 

Blanche Leaey, closely observant of Tryon's 
moods, marked a decided change in his manner 
after his return from his trip to Patesville. His 
former moroseness had given way to a certain 
defiant lightness, broken now and then by an 
involuntary sigh, but maintained so well, on the 
whole, that his mother detected no lapses whatever. 
The change was characterized by another feature 
agreeable to both the women : Tryon showed 
decidedly more interest than ever before in Miss 
Leary's society. Within a week he asked her 
several times to play a selection on the piano, dis- 
playing, as she noticed, a decided preference for 
gay and cheerful music, and several times suggest- 
ing a change when she chose pieces of a sentimental 
cast. More than once, during the second week 
after his return, he went out riding with her ; she 
was a graceful horsewoman, perfectly at home in 
the saddle, and appearing to advantage in a riding- 
habit. She was aware that Tryon watched her now 
and then, with an eye rather critical than indulgent. 

"He is comparing me with some other girl," 
she surmised. " I seem to stand the test very well, 



234 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

I wonder who the other is, and what was the 
trouble?" 

Miss Leary exerted all her powers to interest 
and amuse the man she had set out to win, and 
who seemed nearer than ever before. Tryon, to 
his pleased surprise, discovered in her mind depths 
that he had never suspected. She displayed a 
singular affinity for the tastes that were his — he 
could not, of course, know how carefully she had 
studied them. The old wound, recently reopened, 
seemed to be healing rapidly, under conditions 
more conducive than before to perfect recovery. 
No longer, indeed, was he pursued by the picture 
of Rena discovered and unmasked — this he had 
definitely banished from the realm of sentiment to 
that of reason. The haunting image of Rena lov- 
ing and beloved, amid the harmonious surroundings 
of her brother's home, was not so readily displaced. 
Nevertheless, he reached in several weeks a point 
from which he could consider her as one thinks of 
a dear one removed by the hand of death, or smit- 
ten by some incurable ailment of mind or body. 
Erelong, he fondly believed, the recovery would 
be so far complete that he could consign to the 
tomb of pleasant memories even the most thrilling 
episodes of his ill-starred courtship. 

" George," said Mrs. Tryon one morning while 
her son was in this cheerful mood, " I 'm sending 
Blanche over to Major McLeod's to do an errand 
for me. Would you mind driving her over ? The 
road may be rough after the storm last night, and 



THE SCHOOLHOUSE IN THE WOODS 235 

Blanche has an idea that no one drives so well as 
you." 

" Why, yes, mother, I '11 be glad to drive Blanche 
over. I want to see the major myself." 

They were soon bowling along between the pines, 
behind the handsome mare that had carried Tryon 
so well at the Clarence tournament. Presently he 
drew up sharply. 

" A tree has fallen squarely across the road," he 
exclaimed. " We shall have to turn back a little 
way and go around." 

They drove back a quarter of a mile and turned 
into a by-road leading to the right through the 
woods. The solemn silence of the pine forest is 
soothing or oppressive, according to one's mood. 
Beneath the cool arcade of the tall, overarching 
trees a deep peace stole over Tryon's heart. He 
had put aside indefinitely and forever an unhappy 
and impossible love. The pretty and affectionate 
girl beside him would make an ideal wife. Of 
her family and blood he was sure. She was his 
mother's choice, and his mother had set her heart 
upon their marriage. Why not speak to her now, 
and thus give himself the best possible protection 
against stray flames of love? 

" Blanche," he said, looking at her kindly. 

" Yes, George ? " Her voice was very gentle, 
and slightly tremulous. Could she have divined 
his thought? Love is a great clairvoyant. 

" Blanche, dear, I " — 

A clatter of voices broke upon the stillness of 



236 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

the forest and interrupted Try on' s speech. A 
sudden turn to the left brought the buggy to a 
little clearing, in the midst of which stood a small 
log schoolhouse. Out of the schoolhouse a swarm 
of colored children were emerging, the suppressed 
energy of the school hour finding vent in vocal 
exercise of various sorts. A group had already 
formed a ring, and were singing with great volume 
and vigor : — 

" Miss Jane, she loves sugar an' tea, 
Miss Jane, she loves candy. 
Miss Jane, she can whirl all around 
An' kiss her love quite handy. 

" De oak grows tall, 
De pine grows slim, 
So rise you up, my true love, 
An' let me come in." 

" What a funny little darkey ! " exclaimed Miss 
Leary, pointing to a diminutive lad who was walk- 
ing on his hands, with his feet balanced in the air. 
At sight of the buggy and its occupants this sable 
acrobat, still retaining his inverted position, moved 
toward the newcomers, and, reversing himself with 
a sudden spring, brought up standing beside the 
buggy. 

" Hoddy, Mars Geo'ge ! " he exclaimed, bobbing 
his head and kicking his heel out behind in ap- 
proved plantation style. 

" Hello, Plato," replied the young man, " what 
are you doing here ? " 

" Gwine ter school, Mars Geo'ge," replied the 



THE SCHOOLHOUSE IN THE WOODS 237 

lad ; " larnin' ter read an' write, suh, lack de w'ite 
folks" 

"Wat you callin' dat w'ite man marster fur? " 
whispered a tall yellow boy to the acrobat addressed 
as Plato. "You don' b'long ter him no mo'; you 're 
free, an' ain' got sense ernuff ter know it." 

Tryon threw a small coin to Plato, and holding 
another in his hand suggestively, smiled toward the 
tall yellow boy, who looked regretfully at the coin, 
but stood his ground ; he would call no man master, 
not even for a piece of money. 

During this little colloquy, Miss Leary had kept 
her face turned toward the schoolhouse. 

" What a pretty girl ! " she exclaimed. " There," 
she added, as Tryon turned his head toward her, 
" you are too late. She has retired into her castle. 
Oh, Plato ! " 

" Yas, missis," replied Plato, who was prancing 
round the buggy in great glee, on the strength of 
his acquaintance with the white folks. 

" Is your teacher white ? " 

" No, ma'm, she ain't w'ite ; she 's black. She 
looks lack she 's w'ite, but she 's black." 

Tryon had not seen the teacher's face, but the 
incident had jarred the old wound ; Miss Leary's 
description of the teacher, together with Plato's 
characterization, had stirred lightly sleeping memo- 
ries. He was more or less abstracted during the 
remainder of the drive, and did not recur to the 
conversation that had been interrupted by coming 
upon the schoolhouse. 



238 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

The teacher, glancing for a moment through the 
open door of the schoolhouse, had seen a hand- 
some young lady staring at her, — Miss Leary had 
a curiously intent look when she was interested in 
anything, with no intention whatever to be rude, — 
and beyond the lady the back and shoulder of a 
man, whose face was turned the other way. There 
was a vague suggestion of something familiar about 
the equipage, but Rena shrank from this close 
scrutiny and withdrew out of sight before she had 
had an opportunity to identify the vague resem- 
blance to something she had known. 

Miss Leary had missed by a hair's-breadth the 
psychological moment, and felt some resentment 
toward the little negroes who had interrupted her 
lover's train of thought. Negroes have caused a 
great deal of trouble among white people. How 
deeply the shadow of the Ethiopian had fallen 
upon her own happiness, Miss Leary of course 
could not guess. 



XXVII 

AN INTERESTING ACQUAINTANCE 

A few days later, Eena looked out of the win- 
dow near her desk and saw a low basket phaeton, 
drawn by a sorrel pony, driven sharply into the 
clearing and drawn up beside an oak sapling. 
The occupant of the phaeton, a tall, handsome, 
well-preserved lady in middle life, with slightly 
gray hair, alighted briskly from the phaeton, tied 
the pony to the sapling with a hitching-strap, and 
advanced to the schoolhouse door. 

Rena wondered who the lady might be. She 
had a benevolent aspect, however, and came for- 
ward to the desk with a smile, not at all embar- 
rassed by the wide-eyed inspection of the entire 
school. 

" How do you do ? " she said, extending her 
hand to the teacher. " I live in the neighborhood 
and am interested in the colored people — a good 
many of them once belonged to me. I heard 
something of your school, and thought I should 
like to make your acquaintance." 

" It is very kind of you, indeed," murmured 
Rena respectfully. 

" Yes," continued the lady, " I am not one of 



240 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

those who sit back and blame their former slaves 
because they were freed. They are free now, — it 
is all decided and settled, — and they ought to be 
taught enough to enable them to make good use of 
their freedom. But really, my dear, — you must n't 
feel offended if I make a mistake, — I am going 
to ask you something very personal." She looked 
suggestively at the gaping pupils. 

" The school may take the morning recess now," 
announced the teacher. The pupils filed out in 
an orderly manner, most of them stationing them- 
selves about the grounds in such places as would 
keep the teacher and the white lady in view. Very 
few white persons approved of the colored schools ; 
no other white person had ever visited this one. 

" Are you really colored ? " asked the lady, when 
the children had withdrawn. 

A year and a half earlier, Rena would have met 
the question by some display of self-consciousness. 
Now, she replied simply and directly. 

" Yes, ma'am, I am colored." 

The lady, who had been studying her as closely 
as good manners would permit, sighed regretfully. 

" Well, it 's a shame. No one would ever think 
it. If you chose to conceal it, no one would ever 
be the wiser. What is your name, child, and where 
were you brought up? You must have a romantic 
history." 

Rena gave her name and a few facts in regard 
to her past. The lady was so much interested, 
and put so many and such searching questions, 



AN INTERESTING ACQUAINTANCE 241 

that Rena really found it more difficult to suppress 
the fact that she had been white, than she had 
formerly had in hiding her African origin. There 
was about the girl an air of real refinement that 
pleased the lady, — the refinement not merely of 
a fine nature, but of contact with cultured people ; 
a certain reserve of speech and manner quite 
inconsistent with Mrs. Tryon's experience of col- 
ored women. The lady was interested and slightly 
mystified. A generous, impulsive spirit, — her 
son's own mother, — she made minute inquiries 
about the school and the pupils, several of whom 
she knew by name. Rena stated that the two 
months' term was nearing its end, and that she 
was training the children in various declamations 
and dialogues for the exhibition at the close* 

" I shall attend it," declared the lady positively. 
" I 'm sure you are doing a good work, and it 's 
very noble of you to undertake it when you might 
have a very different future. If I can serve you 
at any time, don't hesitate to call upon me. I 
live in the big white house just before you turn 
out of the Clinton road to come this way. I 'm 
only a widow, but my son George lives with me 
and has some influence in the neighborhood. He 
drove by here yesterday with the lady he is going 
to marry. It was she who told me about you." 

Was it the name, or some subtle resemblance 
in speech or feature, that recalled Tryon's image 
to Rena's mind ? It was not so far away — the 
image of the loving Tryon — that any powerful 



242 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

witchcraft was required to call it up. His mother 
was a widow ; Rena had thought, in happier days, 
that she might be such a kind lady as this. But 
the cruel Tryon who had left her — his mother 
would be some hard, cold, proud woman, who 
would regard a negro as but little better than a 
dog, and who would not soil her lips by addressing 
a colored person upon any other terms than as a 
servant. She knew, too, that Tryon did not live 
in Sampson County, though the exact location of 
his home was not clear to her. 

" And where are you staying, my dear ? " asked 
the good lady. 

" I 'm boarding at Mrs. Wain's," answered 
Rena. 

« Mrs. Wain's ? " 

" Yes, they live in the old Campbell place." 

" Oh, yes — Aunt Nancy. She 's a good enough 
woman, but we don't think much of her son Jeff. 
He married my Amanda after the war — she used 
to belong to me, and ought to have known better. 
He abused her most shamefully, and had to be 
threatened with the law. She left him a year or 
so ago and went away ; I have n't seen her lately. 
Well, good-by, child ; I 'm coming to your exhi- 
bition. If you ever pass my house, come in and 
see me." 

The good lady had talked for half an hour, and 
had brought a ray of sunshine into the teacher's 
monotonous life, heretofore lighted only by the 
uncertain lamp of high resolve. She had satisfied 



AN INTERESTING ACQUAINTANCE 243 

a pardonable curiosity, and had gone away with- 
out mentioning her name. 

Hena saw Plato untying the pony as the lady 
climbed into the phaeton. 

" Who was the lady, Plato ? " asked the teacher 
when the visitor had driven away. 

" Dat 'uz my ole mist'iss, ma'm," returned Plato 
proudly, — " ole Mis' 'Liza." 

" Mis' 'Liza who ? " asked Rena. 

"Mis' 'Liza Tryon. I use' ter b'long ter her. 
Dat 'uz her son, my young Mars Geo'ge, w'at driv 
pas' hyuh yistiddy wid 'is sweetheart." 



/ 



XXVIII 

THE LOST KNIFE 

Rena had found her task not a difficult one so 
far as discipline was concerned. Her pupils were 
of a docile race, and school to them had all the 
charm of novelty. The teacher commanded some 
awe because she was a stranger, and some, perhaps, 
because she was white ; for the theory of blackness 
as propounded by Plato could not quite counter- 
balance in the young African mind the evidence of 
their own senses. She combined gentleness with 
firmness ; and if these had not been sufficient, 
she had reserves of character which would have 
given her the mastery over much less plastic mate- 
rial than these ignorant but eager young people. 
The work of instruction was simple enough, for 
most of the pupils began with the alphabet, which 
they acquired from Webster's blue-backed spelling- 
book, the palladium of Southern education at that 
epoch. The much abused carpet-baggers had put 
the spelling-book within reach of every child of 
school age in North Carolina, — a fact which is 
often overlooked when the carpet-baggers are held 
up to public odium. Even the devil should have 
his due, and is not so black as he is painted. 



THE LOST KNIFE 245 

At the time when she learned that Tryon lived 
in the neighborhood, Rena had already been sub- 
jected for several weeks to a trying ordeal. Wain 
had begun to persecute her with marked attentions. 
She had at first gone to board at his house, — or, 
by courtesy, with his mother. For a week or two 
she had considered his attentions in no other light 
than those of a member of the school committee 
sharing her own zeal and interested in seeing the 
school successfully carried on. In this character 
Wain had driven her to the town for her exami- 
nation ; he had busied himself about putting the 
schoolhouse in order, and in various matters affect- 
ing the conduct of the school. He had jocularly 
offered to come and whip the children for her, and 
had found it convenient to drop in occasionally, 
ostensibly to see what progress the work was 
making. 

" Dese child'en," he would observe sonorously, 
in the presence of the school, " oughter be mon- 
st'ous glad ter have de chance er settin' under 
yo' instruction, Miss Rena. I 'm sho' eve'body in 
dis neighbo'hood 'predates de priv'lege er havin' 
you in ou' mids'." 

Though slightly embarrassing to the teacher, 
these public demonstrations were endurable so long 
as they could be regarded as mere official appre- 
ciation of her work. Sincerely in earnest about 
her undertaking, she had plunged into it with 
all the intensity of a serious nature which love 
had stirred to activity. A pessimist might have 



246 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

sighed sadly or smiled cynically at the notion that 
a poor, weak girl, with a dangerous beauty and a 
sensitive soul, and troubles enough of her own, 
should hope to accomplish anything appreciable 
toward lifting the black mass still floundering 
in the mud where slavery had left it, and where 
emancipation had found it, — the mud in which, 
for aught that could be seen to the contrary, her 
little feet, too, were hopelessly entangled. It might 
have seemed like expecting a man to lift himself 
by his bootstraps. 

But Rena was no philosopher, either sad or 
cheerful. She could not even have replied to 
this argument, that races must lift themselves, 
and the most that can be done by others is to 
give them opportunity and fair play. Hers was 
a simpler reasoning, — the logic by which the 
world is kept going onward and upward when 
philosophers are at odds and reformers are not 
forthcoming. She knew that for every child she 
taught to read and write she opened, if ever so 
little, the door of opportunity, and she was happy 
in the consciousness of performing a duty which 
seemed all the more imperative because newly dis- 
covered. Her zeal, indeed, for the time being was 
like that of an early Christian, who was more 
willing than not to die for his faith. Rena had 
fully and firmly made up her mind to sacrifice her 
life upon this altar. Her absorption in the work 
had not been without its reward, for thereby she 
had been able to keep at a distance the spectre of 



THE LOST KNIFE 247 

her lost love. Her dreams she could not control, 
but she banished Tryon as far as possible from her 
waking thoughts. 

When Wain's attentions became obviously per- 
sonal, Rena's new vestal instinct took alarm, and 
she began to apprehend his character more clearly. 
She had long ago learned that his pretensions to 
wealth were a sham. He was nominal owner of 
a large plantation, it is true ; but the land was 
worn out, and mortgaged to the limit of its secur- 
ity value. His reputed droves of cattle and hogs 
had dwindled to a mere handful of lean and list- 
less brutes. 

Her clear eye, when once set to take Wain's 
measure, soon fathomed his shallow, selfish soul, 
and detected, or at least divined, behind his mask 
of good-nature a lurking brutality which filled her 
with vague distrust, needing only occasion to de- 
velop it into active apprehension, — occasion which 
was not long wanting. She avoided being alone 
with him at home by keeping carefully with the 
women of the house. If she were left alone, — and 
they soon showed a tendency to leave her on any 
pretext whenever Wain came near, — she would 
seek her own room and lock the door. She preferred 
not to offend Wain ; she was far away from home 
and in a measure in his power, but she dreaded his 
compliments and sickened at his smile. She was 
also compelled to hear his relations sing his praises. 

" My son Jeff," old Mrs. Wain would say, " is 
de bes' man you ever seed. His fus' wife had de 



248 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

easies' time an' de nappies' time er ary woman in 
dis settlement. He 's grieve' fer her a long time, but 
I reckon he 's gittin' over it, an' de nex' 'oman w'at 
marries him '11 git a box er pyo' gol', ef I does say 
it as is his own mammy." 

Rena had thought Wain rather harsh with his 
household, except in her immediate presence. His 
mother and sister seemed more or less afraid of 
him, and the children often anxious to avoid him. 

One day, he timed his visit to the schoolhouse 
so as to walk home with Rena through the woods. 
When she became aware of his purpose, she called 
to one of the children who was loitering behind the 
others, " Wait a minute, Jenny. I 'm going your 
way, and you can walk along with me." 

Wain with difficulty hid a scowl behind a smil- 
ing front. When they had gone a little distance 
along the road through the woods, he clapped his 
hand upon his pocket. 

" I declare ter goodness," he exclaimed, " ef I 
ain't dropped my pocket-knife ! I thought I felt 
somethin' slip th'ough dat hole in my pocket jes' 
by the big pine stump in the schoolhouse ya'd. 
Jinny, chile, run back an' hunt fer my knife, an' 
I '11 give yer five cents ef yer find it. Me an' 
Miss Rena '11 walk on slow 'tel you ketches us." 

Rena did not dare to object, though she was afraid 
to be alone with this man. If she could have had 
a moment to think, she would have volunteered to 
ga back with Jenny and look for the knife, which, 
although a palpable subterfuge on her part, would 



THE LOST KNIFE 249 

have been one to which Wain could not object ; 
but the child, dazzled by the prospect of reward, 
had darted back so quickly that this way of escape 
was cut off. She was evidently in for a declara- 
tion of love, which she had taken infinite pains to 
avoid. Just the form it would assume, she could 
not foresee. She was not long left in suspense. 
No sooner was the child well out of sight than 
Wain threw his arms suddenly about her waist 
and smilingly attempted to kiss her. 

Speechless with fear and indignation, she tore 
herself from his grasp with totally unexpected 
force, and fled incontinently along the forest path. 
Wain — who, to do him justice, had merely meant 
to declare his passion in what he had hoped might 
prove a not unacceptable fashion — followed in 
some alarm, expostulating and apologizing as he 
went. But he was heavy and Rena was light, and 
fear lent wings to her feet. He followed her until 
he saw her enter the house of Elder Johnson, the 
father of several of her pupils, after which he 
sneaked uneasily homeward, somewhat apprehen- 
sive of the consequences of his abrupt wooing, 
which was evidently open to an unfavorable con- 
struction. When, an hour later, Rena sent one of 
the Johnson children for some of her things, with 
a message explaining that the teacher had been 
invited to spend a few days at Elder Johnson's, 
Wain felt a pronounced measure of relief. For an 
hour he had even thought it might be better to 
relinquish his pursuit. With a fatuousness born of 



250 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

vanity, however, no sooner had she sent her excuse 
than he began to look upon her visit to Johnson's as 
a mere exhibition of coyness, which, together with 
her conduct in the woods, was merely intended to 
lure him on. 

Right upon the heels of the perturbation caused 
by Wain's conduct, Rena discovered that Tryon 
lived in the neighborhood ; that not only might she 
meet him any day upon the highway, but that he 
had actually driven by the schoolhouse. That he 
knew or would know of her proximity there could 
be no possible doubt, since she had freely told his 
mother her name and her home. A hot wave of 
shame swept over her at the thought that George 
Tryon might imagine she were following him, throw- 
ing herself in his way, and at the thought of the 
construction which he might place upon her actions. 
Caught thus between two emotional fires, at the 
very time when her school duties, owing to the 
approaching exhibition, demanded all her energies, 
Rena was subjected to a physical and mental strain 
that only youth and health could have resisted, and 
then only for a short time. 



XXIX 

PLATO EARNS HALF A DOLLAR 

Tryon's first feeling, when Ms mother at the 
dinner-table gave an account of her visit to the 
schoolhouse in the woods, was one of extreme an- 
noyance. Why, of all created beings, shoidd this 
particular woman be chosen to teach the colored 
school at Sandy Run ? Had she learned that he 
lived in the neighborhood, and had she sought the 
place hoping that he might consent to renew, on 
different terms, relations which could never be re- 
sumed upon their former footing ? Six weeks before, 
he would not have believed her capable of following 
him ; but his last visit to Patesville had revealed her 
character in such a light that it was difficult to pre- 
dict what she might do. It was, however, no affair 
of his. He was done with her ; he had dismissed her 
from his own life, where she had never properly 
belonged, and he had filled her place, or would soon 
fill it, with another and worthier woman. Even 
his mother, a woman of keen discernment and 
delicate intuitions, had been deceived by this girl's 
specious exterior. She had brought away from her 
interview of the morning the impression that Rena 
was a fine, pure spirit, born out of place, through 



252 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

some freak of Fate, devoting herself with heroic 
self-sacrifice to a noble cause. Well, he had 
imagined her just as pure and fine, and she had 
deliberately, with a negro's low cunning, deceived 
him into believing that she was a white girl. The 
pretended confession of the brother^ in which he 
had spoken of the humble origin of the family, had 
been, consciously or unconsciously, the most disin- 
genuous feature of the whole miserable perform- 
ance. They had tried by a show of frankness to 
satisfy their own consciences, — they doubtless had 
enough of white blood to give them a rudimentary 
trace of such a moral organ, — and by the same 
act to disarm him against future recriminations, in 
the event of possible discovery. How was he to 
imagine that persons of their appearance and pre- 
tensions were tainted with negro blood ? The more 
he dwelt upon the subject, the more angry he be- 
came with those who had surprised his virgin heart 
and deflowered it by such low trickery. The man 
who brought the first negro into the British colonies 
had committed a crime against humanity and a 
worse crime against his own race. The father of 
this girl had been guilty of a sin against society 
for which others — for which he, George Tryon — 
must pay the penalty. As slaves, negroes were tol- 
erable. As freemen, they were an excrescence, an 
alien element incapable of absorption into the body 
politic of white men. He would like to send them 
all back to the Africa from which their forefathers 
had come, — unwillingly enough, he would admit, 



PLATO EARNS HALF A DOLLAR 253 

— and he would like especially to banish this girl 
from his own neighborhood ; not indeed that her 
presence would make any difference to him, except 
as a humiliating reminder of his own folly and 
weakness with which he could very well dispense. 

Of this state of mind Tryon gave no visible 
manifestation beyond a certain taciturnity, so 
much at variance with his recent liveliness that the 
ladies could not fail to notice it. No effort upon 
the part of either was able to affect his mood, and 
they both resigned themselves to await his lord- 
ship's pleasure to be companionable. 

For a day or two, Tryon sedulously kept away 
from the neighborhood of the schoolhouse at 
Sandy Eun. He really had business which would 
have taken him in that direction, but made a de- 
tour of five miles rather than go near his aban- 
doned and discredited sweetheart. 

But George Tryon was wisely distrustful of his 
own impulses. Driving one day along the road to 
Clinton, he overhauled a diminutive black figure 
trudging along the road, occasionally turning a 
handspring by way of diversion. 

" Hello, Plato," called Tryon, " do you want a 
lift ? " 

" Hoddy, Mars Geo'ge. Kin I ride wid you ? " 

" Jump up." 

Plato mounted into the buggy with the agility 
to be expected from a lad of his acrobatic accom- 
plishments. The two almost immediately fell into 
conversation upon perhaps the only subject of 



254 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

common interest between them. Before the town 
was reached, Tryon knew, so far as Plato could 
make it plain, the estimation in which the teacher 
was held by pupils and parents. He had learned 
the hours of opening and dismissal of the school, 
where the teacher lived, her habits of coming to 
and going from the schoolhouse, and the road she 
always followed. 

" Does she go to church or anywhere else with 
Jeff Wain, Plato ? " asked Tryon. 

" No, suh, she don' go nowhar wid nobody ex- 
cep'n' ole Elder Johnson er Mis' Johnson, an' de 
child'en. She use' ter stop at Mis' Wain's, but 
she 's stayin' wid Elder Johnson now. She alluz 
makes some er de child'en go home wid er f'm 
school," said Plato, proud to find in Mars Geo'ge 
an appreciative listener, — " sometimes one an' 
sometimes anudder. I 's be'n home wid 'er twice, 
an' it '11 be my tu'n ag'in befo' long." 

" Plato," remarked Tryon impressively, as they 
drove into the town, " do you think you could 
keep a secret ? " 

" Yas, Mars Geo'ge, ef you says I shill." 

" Do you see this fifty-cent piece ? " Tryon 
displayed a small piece of paper money, crisp and 
green in its newness. 

" Yas, Mars Geo'ge," replied Plato, fixing his 
eyes respectfully on the government's promise to 
pay. Fifty cents was a large sum of money. His 
acquaintance with Mars Geo'ge gave him the privi- 
lege of looking at money. When he grew up, he 



PLATO EARNS HALF A DOLLAR 255 

would be able, in good times, to earn fifty cents a 
day. 

" I am going to give this to you, Plato." 

Plato's eyes opened wide as saucers. " Me, 
Mars Geo'ge ? " lie asked in amazement. 

" Yes, Plato. I 'm going to write a letter while 
I'm in town, and want you to take it. Meet me 
here in half an hour, and I '11 give you the letter. 
Meantime, keep your mouth shut." 

" Yas, Mars Geo'ge," replied Plato with a grin 
that distended that organ unduly. That he did 
not keep it shut may be inferred from the fact that 
within the next half hour he had eaten and drunk 
fifty cents' worth of candy, ginger-pop, and other 
available delicacies that appealed to the youthful 
palate. Having nothing more to spend, and the 
high prices prevailing for some time after the war 
having left him capable of locomotion, Plato 
was promptly on hand at the appointed time and 
place. 

Tryon placed a letter in Plato's hand, still sticky 
with molasses candy, — he had inclosed it in a 
second cover by way of protection. " Give that 
letter," he said, " to your teacher ; don't say a 
word about it to a living soul ; bring me an an- 
swer, and give it into my own hand, and you shall 
have another half dollar." 

Tryon was quite aware that by a surreptitious 
correspondence he ran some risk of compromising 
Kena. But he had felt, as soon as he had in- 
dulged his first opportunity to talk of her, an irre- 



256 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

sistible impulse to see her and speak to her again. 
He could scarcely call at her boarding-place, — 
what possible proper excuse could a young white 
man have for visiting a colored woman ? At the 
schoolhouse she would be surrounded by her pupils, 
and a private interview would be as difficult, with 
more eyes to remark and more tongues to com- 
ment upon it. He might address her by mail, but 
did not know how often she sent to the nearest 
post-office. A letter mailed in the town must pass 
through the hands of a postmaster notoriously in- 
quisitive and evil-minded, who was familiar with 
Tryon's handwriting and had ample time to attend 
to other people's business. To meet the teacher 
alone on the road seemed scarcely feasible, accord- 
ing to Plato's statement. A messenger, then, was 
not only the least of several evils, but really the 
only practicable way to communicate with Rena. 
He thought he could trust Plato, though miserably 
aware that he could not trust himself where this 
girl was concerned. 

The letter handed by Tryon to Plato, and by 
the latter delivered with due secrecy and precau- 
tion, ran as follows : — 

Dear Miss Warwick, — You may think it 
strange that I should address you after what has 
passed between us ; but learning from my mother 
of your presence in the neighborhood, I am con- 
strained to believe that you do not find my prox- 
imity embarrassing, and I cannot resist the wish 



PLATO EARNS HALF A DOLLAR 257 

to meet you at least once more, and talk over the 
circumstances of our former friendship. From a 
practical point of view this may seem superfluous, 
as the matter has been definitely settled. I have 
no desire to find fault with you ; on the contrary, 
I wish to set myself right with regard to my own 
actions, and to assure you of my good wishes. In 
other words, since we must part, I would rather we 
parted friends than enemies. If nature and society 
— or Fate, to put it another way — have decreed 
that we cannot five together, it is nevertheless 
possible that we may carry into the future a plea- 
sant though somewhat sad memory of a past friend- 
ship. Will you not grant me one interview? I 
appreciate the difficulty of arranging it ; I have 
found it almost as hard to communicate with you 
by letter. I will suit myself to your convenience 
and meet you at any time and place you may desig- 
nate. Please answer by bearer, who I think is 
trustworthy, and believe me, whatever your an- 
swer may be, 

Respectfully yours, 

G. T. 

The next day but one Tryon received through 
the mail the following reply to his letter : — 

George Tryon, Esq. 

Dear Sir, — I have requested your messenger 
to say that I will answer your letter by mail, which 
I shall now proceed to do. I assure you that 



258 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

I was entirely ignorant of your residence in this 
neighborhood, or it would have been the last place 
on earth in which I should have set foot. 

As to our past relations, they were ended by 
your own act. I frankly confess that I deceived 
you ; I have paid the penalty, and have no com- 
plaint to make. I appreciate the delicacy which 
has made you respect my brother's secret, and 
thank you for it. I remember the whole affair 
with shame and humiliation, and would willingly 
forget it. 

As to a future interview, I do not see what 
good it would do either of us. You are white, and 
you have given me to understand that I am black. 
I accept the classification, however unfair, and the 
consequences, however unjust, one of which is that 
we cannot meet in the same parlor, in the same 
church, at the same table, or anywhere, in social 
intercourse ; upon a steamboat we would not sit at 
the same table ; we could not walk together on the 
street, or meet publicly anywhere and converse, 
without unkind remark. As a white man, this 
might not mean a great deal to you ; as a woman, 
shut out already by my color from much that 
is desirable, my good name remains my most valu- 
able possession. I beg of you to let me alone. 
The best possible proof you can give me of your 
good wishes is to relinquish any desire or attempt 
to see me. 1 shall have finished my work here in 
a few days. I have other troubles, of which you 
know nothing, and any meeting with you would 



PLATO EARNS HALF A DOLLAR 259 

only add to a burden which is already as much as 
I can bear. To speak of parting is superfluous — 
we have already parted. It were idle to dream of 
a future friendship between people so widely dif- 
ferent in station. Such a friendship, if possible 
in itself, would never be tolerated by the lady 
whom you are to marry, with whom you drove by 
my schoolhouse the other day. A gentleman so 
loyal to his race and its traditions as you have 
shown yourself could not be less faithful to the 
lady to whom he has lost his heart and his memory 
in three short months. 

No, Mr. Tryon, our romance is ended, and bet- 
ter so. We could never have been happy. I have 
found a work in which I may be of service to 
others who have fewer opportunities than mine 
have been. Leave me in peace, I beseech you, 
and I shall soon pass out of your neighborhood as 
I have passed out of your life, and hope to pass 
out of your memory. 

Yours very truly, 

ROWENA WaLDEN. 



XXX 

AN UNUSUAL HONOR 

To Rena's high-strung and sensitive nature, 
already under very great tension from her past 
experience, the ordeal of the next few days was a 
severe one. On the one hand, Jeff Wain's infatu- 
ation had rapidly increased, in view of her speedy 
departure. From Mrs. Tryon's remark about 
Wain's wife Amanda, and from things Rena had 
since learned, she had every reason to believe that 
this wife was living, and that Wain must be aware 
of the fact. In the light of this knowledge, Wain's 
former conduct took on a blacker significance than, 
upon reflection, she had charitably clothed it with 
after the first flush of indignation. That he had 
not given up his design to make love to her was 
quite apparent, and, with Amanda alive, his atten- 
tions, always offensive since she had gathered their 
import, became in her eyes the expression of a 
villainous purpose, of which she could not speak to 
others, and from which she felt safe only so long 
as she took proper precautions against it. In a 
week her school would be over, and then she would 
get Elder Johnson, or some one else than Wain, 
to take her back to Patesville. True, she might 



AN UNUSUAL HONOR 261 

abandon her school and go at once ; but her work 
would be incomplete, she would have violated her 
contract, she would lose her salary for the month, 
explanations would be necessary, and would not be 
forthcoming, She might feign sickness, — indeed, 
it would scarcely be feigning, for she felt far from 
well; she had never, since her illness, quite re- 
covered her former vigor — but the inconvenience 
to others would be the same, and her self-sacrifice 
would have had, at its very first trial, a lame and 
impotent conclusion. She had as yet no fear of 
personal violence from Wain ; but, under the cir- 
cumstances, his attentions were an insult. He was 
evidently bent upon conquest, and vain enough to 
think he might achieve it by virtue of his per- 
sonal attractions. If he could have understood 
how she loathed the sight of his narrow eyes, with 
their puffy lids, his thick, tobacco-stained lips, his 
doubtful teeth, and his unwieldy person, Wain, 
a monument of conceit that he was, might have 
shrunk, even in his own estimation, to something 
like his real proportions. Rena believed that, to 
defend herself from persecution at his hands, it 
was only necessary that she never let him find her 
alone. This, however, required constant watch- 
fulness. Relying upon his own powers, and upon 
a woman's weakness and aversion to scandal, from 
which not even the purest may always escape 
unscathed, and convinced by her former silence 
that he had nothing serious to fear, Wain made it 
a point to be present at every public place where 



262 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

she might be. He assumed, in conversation with 
her which she could not avoid, and stated to 
others, that she had left his house because of a 
previous promise to divide the time of her stay- 
between Elder Johnson's house and his own. He 
volunteered to teach a class in the Sunday-school 
which Rena conducted at the colored Methodist 
church, and when she remained to service, occu- 
pied a seat conspicuously near her own. In addi- 
tion to these public demonstrations, which it was 
impossible to escape, or, it seemed, with so thick- 
skinned an individual as Wain, even to discourage, 
she was secretly and uncomfortably conscious that 
she could scarcely stir abroad without the risk of 
encountering one of two men, each of whom was 
on the lookout for an opportunity to find her 
alone. 

The knowledge of Try on' s presence in the 
vicinity had been almost as much as Eena could 
bear. To it must be added the consciousness that 
he, too, was pursuing her, to what end she could 
not tell. After his letter to her brother, and the 
feeling therein displayed, she found it necessary to 
crush once or twice a wild hope that, her secret 
being still unknown save to a friendly few, he might 
return and claim her. Now, such an outcome 
would be impossible. He had become engaged to 
another woman, — this in itself would be enough 
to keep him from her, if it were not an index of 
a vastly more serious barrier, a proof that he had 
never loved her. If he had loved her truly, he 



AN UNUSUAL HONOR 263 

would never have forgotten her in three short 
months, — three long months they had heretofore 
seemed to her, for in them she had lived a lifetime 
of experience. Another impassable barrier lay in 
the fact that his mother had met her, and that she 
was known in the neighborhood. Thus cut off 
from any hope that she might be anything to 
him, she had no wish to meet her former lover ; 
no possible good could come of such a meeting ; 
and yet her fluttering heart told her that if he 
should come, as his letter foreshadowed that he 
might, — if he should come, the loving George of 
old, with soft words and tender smiles and spe- 
cious talk of friendship — ah ! then, her heart 
would break! She must not meet him — at any 
cost she must avoid him. 

But this heaping up of cares strained her endur- 
ance to the breaking-point. Toward the middle of 
the last week, she knew that she had almost reached 
the limit, and was haunted by a fear that she 
might break down before the week was over. Now 
her really fine nature rose to the emergency, though 
she mustered her forces with a great effort. If she 
could keep Wain at his distance and avoid Tryon 
for three days longer, her school labors would be 
ended and she might retire in peace and honor. 

"Miss Rena," said Plato to her on Tuesday, 
"ain't it 'bout time I wuz gwine home wid you 
ag'in ? " 

" You may go with me to-morrow, Plato," 
answered the teacher. 



264 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

After school Plato met an anxious-eyed young 
man in the woods a short distance from the school- 
house. 

" Well, Plato, what news ? " 

" I 's gwine ter see her home ter-morrer, Mars 
Geo'ge." 

"To-morrow!" replied Tryon; "how very un- 
fortunate ! I wanted you to go to town to-morrow 
to take an important message for me. I 'm sorry, 
Plato — you might have earned another dollar." 

To lie is a disgraceful thing, and yet there are 
times when, to a lover's mind, love dwarfs all 
ordinary laws. Plato scratched his head discon- 
solately, but suddenly a bright thought struck him. 

" Can't I go ter town fer you atter I 've seed her 
home, Mars Geo'ge?" 

" N-o, I 'm afraid it would be too late," re- 
turned Tryon doubtfully. 

" Den I '11 haf ter ax 'er ter lemme go nex' day," 
said Plato, with resignation. The honor might be 
postponed or, if necessary, foregone; the oppor- 
tunity to earn a dollar was the chance of a lifetime 
and must not be allowed to slip. 

" No, Plato," rejoined Tryon, shaking his head, 
" I should n't want to deprive you of so great a 
pleasure." Tryon was entirely sincere in this 
characterization of Plato's chance ; he would have 
given many a dollar to be sure of Plato's place and 
Plato's welcome. Bena's letter had re-inflamed his 
smouldering passion ; only opposition was needed 
to fan it to a white heat. Wherein lay the great 



AN UNUSUAL HONOR 265 

superiority of his position, if he was denied the 
right to Speak to the one person in the world whom 
he most cared to address? He felt some dim 
realization of the tyranny of caste, when he found 
it not merely pressing upon an inferior people who 
had no right to expect anything better, but barring 
his own way to something that he desired. He 
meant her no harm — but he must see her. He 
could never marry her now — but he must see her. 
He was conscious of a certain relief at the thought 
that he had not asked Blanche Leary to be his 
wife. His hand was unpledged. He could not 
marry the other girl, of course, but they must meet 
again. The rest he would leave to Fate, which 
seemed reluctant to disentangle threads which it 
had woven so closely. 

" I think, Plato, that I see an easier way out of 
the difficulty. Your teacher, I imagine, merely 
wants some one to see her safely home. Don't 
you think, if you should go part of the way, that 
I might take your place for the rest, while you did 
my errand ? " 

" Why, sho'ly, Mars Geo'ge, you could take keer 
er her better 'n I could — better 'n anybody could 
— co'se you could ! " 

Mars Geo'ge was white and rich, and could do 
anything. Plato was proud of the fact that he 
had once belonged to Mars Geo'ge. He could 
not conceive of any one so powerful as Mars 
Geo'ge, unless it might be God, of whom Plato 
had heard more or less, and even here the com- 



266 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

parison might not be quite fair to Mars Geo'ge, 
for Mars Geo'ge was the younger of the two. It 
would undoubtedly be a great honor for the teacher 
to be escorted home by Mars Geo'ge. The teacher 
was a great woman, no doubt, and looked white ; 
but Mars Geo'ge was the real article. Mars 
Geo'ge had never been known to go with a black 
woman before, and the teacher would doubtless 
thank Plato for arranging that so great an honor 
should fall upon her. Mars Ge'oge had given him 
fifty cents twice, and would now give him a dollar. 
Noble Mars Geo'ge ! Fortunate teacher ! Happy 
Plato ! 

" Very well, Plato. I think we can arrange it 
so that you can kill the two rabbits at one shot. 
Suppose that we go over the road that she will 
take to go home." 

They soon arrived at the schoolhouse. School 
had been out an hour, and the clearing was de- 
serted. Plato led the way by the road through 
the woods to a point where, amid somewhat thick 
underbrush, another path intersected the road they 
were following. 

" Now, Plato," said Tryon, pausing here, " this 
would be a good spot for you to leave the teacher 
and for me to take your place. This path leads 
to the main road, and will take you to town very 
quickly. I should n't say anything to the teacher 
about it at all ; but when you and she get here, 
drop behind and run along this path until you 
meet me, — I '11 be waiting a few yards down the 



AN UNUSUAL HONOR 267 

road, — and then run to town as fast as your legs 
will carry you. As soon as you are gone, I '11 
come out and tell the teacher that I 've sent you 
away on an errand, and will myself take your 
place. You shall have a dollar, and I '11 ask her 
to let you go home with her the next day. But 
you must n't say a word about it, Plato, or you 
won't get the dollar, and I '11 not ask the teacher 
to let you go home with her again." 

" All right, Mars Geo'ge, I ain't gwine ter say 
no mo' d'n ef de cat had my tongue." 



XXXI 

IN DEEP WATERS 

Bena was unusually fatigued at the close of her 
school on Wednesday afternoon. She had been 
troubled all day with a headache, which, beginning 
with a dull pain, had gradually increased in inten- 
sity until every nerve was throbbing like a trip- 
hammer. The pupils seemed unusually stupid. A 
discouraging sense of the insignificance of any part 
she could perform towards the education of three 
million people with a school term of two months 
a year hung over her spirit like a pall. As the 
object of Wain's attentions, she had begun to feel 
somewhat like a wild creature who hears the pur- 
suers on its track, and has the fear of capture 
added to the fatigue of flight. But when this ex- 
citement had gone too far and had neared the limit 
of exhaustion came Tryon's letter, with the result- 
ing surprise and consternation. Kena had keyed 
herself up to a heroic pitch to answer it ; but when 
the inevitable reaction came, she was overwhelmed 
with a sickening sense of her own weakness. The 
things which in another sphere had constituted her 
strength and shield were now her undoing, and 
exposed her to dangers from which they lent her 
no protection. Not only was this her position in 



IN DEEP WATERS 269 

theory, but the pursuers were already at her heels. 
As the day wore on, these dark thoughts took on 
an added gloom, until, when the hour to dismiss 
school arrived, she felt as though she had not a 
friend in the world. This feeling was accentu- 
ated by a letter which she had that morning 
received from her mother, in which Mis' Molly 
spoke very highly of Wain, and plainly expressed 
the hope that her daughter might like him so well 
that she would prefer to remain in Sampson 
County. 

Plato, bright-eyed and alert, was waiting in the 
school-yard until the teacher should be ready to 
start. Having warned away several smaller chil- 
dren who had hung around after school as though 
to share his prerogative of accompanying the 
teacher, Plato had swung himself into the low 
branches of an oak at the edge of the clearing, 
from which he was hanging by his legs, head down- 
ward. He dropped from this reposeful attitude 
when the teacher appeared at the door, and took 
his place at her side. 

A premonition of impending trouble caused the 
teacher to hesitate. She wished that she had kept 
more of the pupils behind. Something whispered 
that danger lurked in the road she customarily 
followed. Plato seemed insignificantly small and 
weak, and she felt miserably unable to cope with 
any difficult or untoward situation. 

" Plato," she suggested, " I think we '11 go round 
the other way to-night, if you don't mind." 



270 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

Visions of Mars Geo'ge disappointed, of a dol- 
lar unearned and unspent, flitted through the nar- 
row brain which some one, with the irony of igno- 
rance or of knowledge, had mocked with the name 
of a great philosopher. Plato was not an untruth- 
ful lad, but he seldom had the opportunity to earn 
a dollar. His imagination, spurred on by the in- 
stinct of self-interest, rose to the emergency. 

" I 's feared you mought git snake-bit gwine 
roun' dat way, Miss Rena. My brer Jim kill't a 
water-moccasin down dere yistiddy 'bout ten feet 
long." 

Rena had a horror of snakes, with which the 
swamp by which the other road ran was infested. 
Snakes were a vivid reality ; her presentiment 
was probably a mere depression of spirits due to 
her condition of nervous exhaustion. A cloud had 
come up and threatened rain, and the wind was 
rising ominously. The old way was the shorter ; 
she wanted above all things to get to Elder John- 
son's and go to bed. Perhaps sleep would rest 
her tired brain — she could not imagine herself 
feeling worse, unless she should break down alto- 
gether. 

She plunged into the path and hastened for- 
ward so as to reach home before the approaching 
storm. So completely was she absorbed in her 
own thoughts that she scarcely noticed that Plato 
himself seemed preoccupied. Instead of capering 
along like a playful kitten or puppy, he walked by 
her side unusually silent. When they had gone a 



IN DEEP WATERS 271 

short distance and were approaching a path which 
intersected their road at something near a right 
angle, the teacher missed Plato. He had dropped 
behind a moment before ; now he had disappeared 
entirely. Her vague alarm of a few moments 
before returned with redoubled force. 

"Plato!" she called; "Plato!" 

There was no response, save the soughing of the 
wind through the swaying treetops. She stepped 
hastily forward, wondering if this were some child- 
ish prank. If so, it was badly timed, and she 
would let Plato feel the weight of her displeasure. 

Her forward step had brought her to the junc- 
tion of the two paths, where she paused doubt- 
fully. The route she had been following was the 
most direct way home, but led for quite a distance 
through the forest, which she did not care to 
traverse alone. The intersecting path would soon 
take her to the main road, where she might find 
shelter or company, or both. Glancing around 
again in search of her missing escort, she became 
aware that a man was approaching her from each 
of the two paths. In one she recognized the eager 
and excited face of George Tryon, flushed with 
anticipation of their meeting, and yet grave with 
uncertainty of his reception. Advancing confi- 
dently along the other path she saw the face of 
Jeff Wain, drawn, as she imagined in her anguish, 
with evil passions which would stop at nothing. 

What should she do ? There was no sign of 
Plato — for aught she could see or hear of him, 



272 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

the earth might have swallowed him up. Some 
deadly serpent might have stung him. Some 
wandering rabbit might have tempted him aside. 
Another thought struck her. Plato had been 
very quiet — there had been something on his con- 
science — perhaps he had betrayed her ! But to 
which of the two men, and to what end ? 

The problem was too much for her overwrought 
brain. She turned and fled. A wiser instinct 
might have led her forward. In the two conflict- 
ing dangers she might have found safety. The 
road after all was a public way. Any number of 
persons might meet there accidentally. But she 
saw only the darker side of the situation. To 
turn to Tryon for protection before Wain had by 
some overt act manifested the evil purpose which 
she as yet only suspected would be, she imagined, 
to acknowledge a previous secret acquaintance 
with Tryon, thus placing her reputation at Wain's 
mercy, and to charge herself with a burden of 
obligation toward a man whom she wished to avoid 
and had refused to meet. If, on the other hand, 
she should go forward to meet Wain, he would 
undoubtedly offer to accompany her homeward. 
Tryon would inevitably observe the meeting, and 
suppose it prearranged. Not for the world would 
she have him think so — why she should care 
for his opinion, she did not stop to argue. She 
turned and fled, and to avoid possible pursuit, 
struck into the underbrush at an angle which she 
calculated would bring her in a few rods to an- 



IN DEEP WATERS 273 

other path which would lead quickly into the main 
road. She had run only a few yards when she 
found herself in the midst of a clump of prickly 
shrubs and briars. Meantime the storm had 
burst ; the rain fell in torrents. Extricating her- 
self from the thorns, she pressed forward, but in- 
stead of coming out upon the road, found herself 
penetrating deeper and deeper into the forest. 

The storm increased in violence. The air grew 
darker and darker. It was near evening, the 
clouds were dense, the thick woods increased the 
gloom. Suddenly a blinding flash of lightning 
pierced the darkness, followed by a sharp clap of 
thunder. There was a crash of falling timber. 
Terror-stricken, Rena flew forward through the 
forest, the underbrush growing closer and closer 
as she advanced. Suddenly the earth gave way 
beneath her feet and she sank into a concealed 
morass. By clasping the trunk of a neighboring 
sapling she extricated herself with an effort, and 
realized with a horrible certainty that she was 
lost in the swamp. 

Turning, she tried to retrace her steps. A flash 
of lightning penetrated the gloom around her, and 
barring her path she saw a huge black snake, — 
harmless enough, in fact, but to her excited im- 
agination frightful in appearance. With a wild 
shriek she turned again, staggered forward a few 
yards, stumbled over a projecting root, and fell 
heavily to the earth. 

When Rena had disappeared in the underbrush, 



274 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

Tryon and Wain had each instinctively set out in 
pursuit of her, but owing to the gathering dark- 
ness, the noise of the storm, and the thickness of 
the underbrush, they missed not only Rena but 
each other, and neither was aware of the other's 
presence in the forest. Wain kept up the chase 
until the rain drove him to shelter. Tryon, after 
a few minutes, realized that she had fled to escape 
him, and that to pursue her would be to defeat 
rather than promote his purpose. He desisted, 
therefore, and returning to the main road, stationed 
himself at a point where he could watch Elder 
Johnson's house, and having waited for a while 
without any signs of Rena, concluded that she had 
taken refuge in some friendly cabin. Turning 
homeward disconsolately as night came on, he in- 
tercepted Plato on his way back from town, and 
pledged him to inviolable secrecy so effectually 
that Plato, when subsequently questioned, merely 
answered that he had stopped a moment to gather 
some chinquapins, and when he had looked around 
the teacher was gone. 

Rena not appearing at supper-time nor for an 
hour later, the elder, somewhat anxious, made in- 
quiries about the neighborhood, and finding his 
guest at no place where she might be expected to 
stop, became somewhat alarmed. Wain's house 
was the last to which he went. He had surmised 
that there was some mystery connected with her 
leaving Wain's, but had never been given any 
definite information about the matter. In response 



IN DEEP WATERS 275 

to his inquiries, Wain expressed surprise, but be- 
trayed a certain self-consciousness which did not 
escape the elder's eye. Returning home, he organ- 
ized a search-party from his own family and sev- 
eral near neighbors, and set out with dogs and 
torches to scour the woods for the missing teacher. 
A couple of hours later, they found her lying 
unconscious in the edge of the swamp, only a few 
rods from a well-defined path which would soon 
have led her to the open highway. Strong arms 
lifted her gently and bore her home. Mrs. John- 
son undressed her and put her to bed, adminis- 
tering a homely remedy, of which whiskey was 
the principal ingredient, to counteract the effects 
of the exposure. There was a doctor within five 
miles, but no one thought of sending for him, nor 
was it at all likely that it would have been possible 
to get him for such a case at such an hour. 

Rena's illness, however, was more deeply seated 
than her friends could imagine. A tired body, 
in sympathy with an overwrought brain, had left 
her peculiarly susceptible to the nervous shock of 
her forest experience. The exposure for several 
hours in her wet clothing' to the damps and miasma 
of the swamp had brought on an attack of brain 
fever. The next morning, she was delirious. One 
of the children took word to the schoolhouse that 
the teacher was sick and there would be no school 
that day. A number of curious and sympathetic 
people came in from time to time and suggested 
various remedies, several of which old Mrs. John- 



276 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

son, with catholic impartiality, administered to 
the helpless teacher, who from delirium gradually 
sunk into a heavy stupor scarcely distinguishable 
from sleep. It was predicted that she would 
probably be well in the morning ; if not, it would 
then be time to consider seriously the question of 
sending for a doctor. 



XXXII 

THE POWER OF LOVE 

After Tryon's failure to obtain an interview 
with Rena through Plato's connivance, he decided 
upon a different course of procedure. In a few 
days her school term would be finished. He was 
not less desirous to see her, was indeed as much 
more eager as opposition would be likely to make 
a very young man who was accustomed to having 
his own way, and whose heart, as he had discovered, 
was more deeply and permanently involved than 
he had imagined. His present plan was to wait 
until the end of the school ; then, when Rena went 
to Clinton on the Saturday or Monday to draw 
her salary for the month, he would see her in the 
town, or, if necessary, would follow her to Pates- 
ville. No power on earth should keep him from 
her long, but he had no desire to interfere in any 
way with the duty which she owed to others. 
When the school was over and her work com- 
pleted, then he would have his innings. Writing 
letters was too unsatisfactory a method of commu- 
nication — he must see her face to face. 

The first of his three days of waiting had passed, 
when, about ten o'clock on the morning of the 



278 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

second day, which seemed very long in prospect, 
while driving along the road toward Clinton, he 
met Plato, with a rabbit trap in his hand. 

" Well, Plato," he asked, " why are you absent 
from the classic shades of the academy to-day ? " 

"Hoddy, Mars Geo'ge. Wat wuz dat you 
say?" 

" Why are you not at school to-day ? " 

" Ain' got no teacher, Mars Geo'ge. Teacher 's 
gone ! " 

" Gone ! " exclaimed Tryon, with a sudden leap 
of the heart. " Gone where ? What do you 
mean ? " 

" Teacher got los' in de swamp, night befo' las', 
'cause Plato wa'n't dere ter show her de way out'n 
de woods. Elder Johnson f oun' 'er wid dawgs and 
tawches, an' fotch her home an' put her ter bed. 
No school yistiddy. She wuz out'n her haid las' 
night, an' dis mawnin' she wuz gone." 

" Gone where ? " 

" Dey don' nobody know whar, suh." 

Leaving Plato abruptly, Tryon hastened down 
the road toward Elder Johnson's cabin. This was 
no time to stand on punctilio. The girl had been 
lost in the woods in the storm, amid the thunder 
and lightning and the pouring rain. She was, 
sick with fright and exposure, and he was the 
cause of it all. Bribery, corruption, and falsehood 
had brought punishment in their train, and the 
innocent had suffered while the guilty escaped. 
He must learn at once what had become of her. 



THE POWER OF LOVE 279 

Reaching Elder Johnson's house, he drew up by 
the front fence and gave the customary halloa, 
which summoned a woman to the door. 

" Good-morning," he said, nodding unconsciously, 
with the careless politeness of a gentleman to his 
inferiors. "I 'm Mr. Tryon. I have come to 
inquire about the sick teacher." 

" Why, suh," the woman replied respectfully, 
" she got los' in de woods night befo' las', an' she 
wuz out'n her min' most er de time yistiddy. 
Las' night she must 'a' got out er bed an' run 
away w'en eve'ybody wuz soun' asleep, fer dis 
mawnin' she wuz gone, an' none er us knows whar 
she is." 

" Has any search been made for her ? " 

" Yas, suh, my husban' an' de child'en has been 
huntin' roun' all de mawnin', an' he 's gone ter 
borry a hoss now ter go fu'ther. But Lawd knows 
dey ain' no tellin' whar she 'd go, 'less'n she got 
her min' back sence she lef." 

Tryon's mare was in good condition. He had 
money in his pocket and nothing to interfere with 
his movements. He set out immediately on the 
road to Patesville, keeping a lookout by the road- 
side, and stopping each person he met to inquire 
if a young woman, apparently ill, had been seen 
traveling along the road on foot. No one had met 
such a traveler. When he had gone two or three 
miles, he drove through a shallow branch that 
crossed the road. The splashing of his horse's 
hoofs in the water prevented him from hearing a 



280 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

low groan that came from the woods by the road- 
side. 

He drove on, making inquiries at each farm- 
house and of every person whom he encountered. 
Shortly after crossing the branch, he met a young 
negro with a cartload of tubs and buckets and 
piggins, and asked him if he had seen on the road 
a young white woman with dark eyes and hair, 
apparently sick or demented. The young man 
answered in the negative, and Tryon pushed for- 
ward anxiously. 

At noon he stopped at a farmhouse and swal- 
lowed a hasty meal. His inquiries here elicited no 
information, and he was just leaving when a young 
man came in late to dinner and stated, in response 
to the usual question, that he had met, some two 
hours before, a young woman who answered 
Tryon' s description, on the Lillington road, which 
crossed the main road to Patesville a short distance 
beyond the farmhouse. He had spoken to the 
woman. At first she had paid no heed to his 
question. When addressed a second time, she had 
answered in a rambling and disconnected way, 
which indicated to his mind that there was some- 
thing wrong with her. 

Tryon thanked his informant and hastened to 
the Lillington road. Stopping as before to inquire, 
he followed the woman for several hours, each 
mile of the distance taking him farther away from 
Patesville. From time to time he heard of the 
woman. Toward nightfall he found her. She 



THE POWER OF LOVE 281 

was white enough, with the sallowness of the sand- 
hill poor white. She was still young, perhaps, but 
poverty and a hard life made her look older than 
she ought. She was not fair, and she was not 
Rena. When Tryon came up to her, she was sitting 
on the door sill of a miserable cabin, and held in 
her hand a bottle, the contents of which had never 
paid any revenue tax. She had walked twenty 
miles that day, and had beguiled the tedium of the 
journey by occasional potations, which probably 
accounted for the in coherency of speech which sev- 
eral of those who met her had observed. When 
Tryon drew near, she tendered him the bottle with 
tipsy cordiality. He turned in disgust and re- 
traced his steps to the Patesville road, which he 
did not reach until nightfall. As it was too dark 
to prosecute the search with any chance of success, 
he secured lodging for the night, intending to 
resume his quest early in the morning. 



XXXIII 

A MULE AND A CART 

Frank Fowler's heart was filled with longing 
for a sight of Rena's face. When she had gone away 
first, on the ill-fated trip to South Carolina, her 
absence had left an aching void in his life ; he had 
missed her cheerful smile, her pleasant words, her 
graceful figure moving about across the narrow 
street. His work had grown monotonous during 
her absence ; the clatter of hammer and mallet, 
that had seemed so merry when punctuated now 
and then by the strains of her voice, became a mere 
humdrum rapping of wood upon wood and iron 
upon iron. He had sought work in South Caro- 
lina with the hope that he might see her. He had 
satisfied this hope, and had tried in vain to do 
her a service ; but Fate had been against her ; her 
castle of cards had come tumbling down. He felt 
that her sorrow had brought her nearer to him. 
The distance between them depended very much 
upon their way of looking at things. He knew 
that her experience had dragged her through the 
valley of humiliation. His unselfish devotion had 
reacted to refine and elevate his own spirit. When 
he heard the suggestion, after her second departure, 



A MULE AND A CART 283 

that she might marry Wain, he could not but com- 
pare himself with this new aspirant. He, Frank, 
was a man, an honest man — a better man than 
the shifty scoundrel with whom she had ridden 
away. She was but a woman, the best and sweet- 
est and loveliest of all women, but yet a woman. 
After a few short years of happiness or sorrow, — 
little of joy, perhaps, and much of sadness, which 
had begun already, — they would both be food for 
worms. White people, with a deeper wisdom per- 
haps than they used in their own case, regarded 
Rena and himself as very much alike. They were 
certainly both made by the same God, in much the 
same physical and mental mould ; they breathed 
the same air, ate the same food, spoke the same 
speech, loved and hated, laughed and cried, lived 
and would die, the same. If God had meant to 
rear any impassable barrier between people of con- 
trasting complexions, why did He not express the 
prohibition as He had done between other orders 
of creation ? 

When Rena had departed for Sampson County, 
Frank had reconciled himself to her absence by 
the hope of her speedy return. He often stepped 
across the street to talk to Mis' Molly about her. 
Several letters had passed between mother and 
daughter, and in response to Frank's inquiries his 
neighbor uniformly stated that Rena was well and 
doing well, and sent her love to all inquiring 
friends. But Frank observed that Mis' Molly, 
when pressed as to the date of Rena's return, grew 



284 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

more and more indefinite; and finally the mother, 
in a burst of confidential friendship, told Frank of 
all her hopes with reference to the stranger from 
down the country. 

" Yas, Frank," she concluded, " it '11 be her own 
fault ef she don't become a lady of proputty, fer 
Mr. Wain is rich, an' owns a big plantation, an' 
hires a lot of hands, and is a big man in the county. 
He 's crazy to git her, an' it all lays in her own 
han's." 

Frank did not find this news reassuring. He 
believed that Wain was a liar and a scoundrel. 
He had nothing more than his intuitions upon 
which to found this belief, but it was none the less 
firm. If his estimate of the man's character were 
correct, then his wealth might be a fiction, pure 
and simple. If so, the truth should be known 
to Mis' Molly, so that instead of encouraging 
a marriage with Wain, she would see him in his 
true light, and interpose to rescue her daughter 
from his importunities. A day or two after this 
conversation, Frank met in the town a negro from 
Sampson County, made his acquaintance, and 
inquired if he knew a man by the name of Jeff 
Wain. 

" Oh, Jeff Wain ! " returned the countryman 
slightingly ; " yas, I knows 'im, an' don' know no 
good of 'im. One er dese yer biggity, braggin' 
niggers — talks lack he own de whole county, an' 
ain't wuth no mo' d'n I is — jes' a big bladder wid 
a handful er shot rattlin' roun' in it. Had a wife, 



A MULE AND A CART 285 

when I wuz dere, an' beat her an' 'bused her so 
she had ter run away." 

This was alarming information. Wain had 
passed in the town as a single man, and Frank had 
had no hint that he had ever been married. There 
was something wrong somewhere. Frank deter- 
mined that he would find out the truth and, if 
possible, do something to protect Rena against the 
obviously evil designs of the man who had taken 
her away. The barrel factory had so affected the 
cooper's trade that Peter and Frank had turned 
their attention more or less to the manufacture of 
small woodenware for domestic use. Frank's mule 
was eatiug off its own head, as the saying goes. It 
required but little effort to persuade Peter that 
his son might take a load of buckets and tubs and 
piggins into the country and sell them or trade 
them for country produce at a profit. 

In a few days Frank had his stock prepared, and 
set out on the road to Sampson County. He went 
about 'thirty miles the first day, and camped by 
the roadside for the night, resuming the journey 
at dawn. After driving for an hour through the 
tall pines that overhung the road like the stately 
arch of a cathedral aisle, weaving a carpet for the 
earth with their brown spines and cones, and sooth- 
ing the ear with their ceaseless murmur, Frank 
stopped to water his mule at a point where the 
white, sandy road, widening as it went, sloped 
downward to a clear-running branch. On the 
right a bay-tree bending over the stream mingled 



286 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

the heavy odor of its flowers with the delicate per- 
fume of a yellow jessamine vine that had overrun 
a clump of saplings on the left. From a neigh- 
boring tree a silver-throated mocking-bird poured 
out a flood of riotous melody. A group of minnows, 
startled by the splashing of the mule's feet, darted 
away into the shadow of the thicket, their quick 
passage leaving the amber water filled with laugh- 
ing light. 

The mule drank long and lazily, while over 
Frank stole thoughts in harmony with the peaceful 
scene, — thoughts of Rena, young and beautiful, 
her friendly smile, her pensive dark eyes. He 
would soon see her now, and if she had any cause 
for fear or unhappiness, he would place himself at 
her service — for a day, a week, a month, a year, 
a lifetime, if need be. 

His reverie was broken by a slight noise from 
the thicket at his left. " I wonder who dat is?" 
he muttered. " It soun's mighty quare, ter say de 
leas'." 

He listened intently for a moment, but heard 
nothing further. " It must 'a' be'n a rabbit er 
somethin' scamp'in' th'ough de woods. G'long 
dere, Caesar ! " 

As the mule stepped forward, the sound was 
repeated. This time it was distinctly audible, the 
long, low moan of some one in sickness or distress. 

" Dat ain't no rabbit," said Frank to himself. 
" Dere 's somethin' wrong dere. Stan' here, Cae- 
sar, till I look inter dis matter." 



A MULE AND A CART 287 

Pulling out from the branch, Frank sprang 
from the saddle and pushed his way cautiously 
through the outer edge of the thicket. 

" Good Lawd ! " he exclaimed with a start, "it 's 
a woman — a w'ite woman ! " 

The slender form of a young woman lay stretched 
upon the ground in a small open space a few yards 
in extent. Her face was turned away, and Frank 
could see at first only a tangled mass of dark brown 
hair, matted with twigs and leaves and cockleburs, 
and hanging in wild profusion around her neck. 

Frank stood for a moment irresolute, debating 
the serious question whether he should investigate 
further with a view to rendering assistance, or 
whether he should put as great a distance as possi- 
ble between himself and this victim, as she might 
easily be, of some violent crime, lest he should 
himself be suspected of it — a not unlikely con- 
tingency, if he were found in the neighborhood and 
the woman should prove unable to describe her 
assailant. While he hesitated, the figure moved 
restlessly, and a voice murmured : — 

" Mamma, oh, mamma ! " 

The voice thrilled Frank like an electric shock. 
Trembling in every limb, he sprang forward toward 
the prostrate figure. The woman turned her head, 
and he saw that it was Rena. Her gown was torn 
and dusty, and fringed with burs and briars. 
When she had wandered forth, half delirious, pur- 
sued by imaginary foes, she had not stopped to put 
on her shoes, and her little feet were blistered and 



288 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

swollen and bleeding. Frank knelt by her side 
and lifted her head on his arm. He put his hand 
upon her brow ; it was burning with fever. 

" Miss Rena ! Rena ! don't you know me ? " 

She turned her wild eyes on him suddenly. 
"Yes, I know you, Jeff Wain. Go away from 
me ! Go away ! " 

Her voice rose to a scream; she struggled in 
his grasp and struck at him fiercely with her 
clenched fists. Her sleeve fell back and disclosed 
the white scar made by his own hand so many 
years before. 

" You 're a wicked man," she panted. " Don't 
touch me ! I hate you and despise you ! " 

Frank could only surmise how she had come 
here, in such a condition. When she spoke of 
Wain in this manner, he drew his own conclusions. 
Some deadly villainy of Wain's had brought her 
to this pass. Anger stirred his nature to the 
depths, and found vent in curses on the author of 
Rena's misfortunes. 

" Damn him ! " he groaned. " I '11 have his 
heart's blood fer dis, ter de las' drop ! " 

Rena now laughed and put up her arms ap- 
pealingly. " George," she cried, in melting tones, 
" dear George, do you love me ? How much do 
you love me? Ah, you don't love me!" she 
moaned ; " I 'm black ; you don't love me ; you 
despise me ! " 

Her voice died away into a hopeless wail. 
Frank knelt by her side, his faithful heart break- 



A MULE AND A CART 289 

ing with pity, great tears rolling untouched down 
his dusky cheeks. 

" Oh, my honey, my darlin'," he sobbed, " Frank 
loves you better 'n all de worl'." 

Meantime the sun shone on as brightly as be- 
fore, the mocking-bird sang yet more joyously. 
A gentle breeze sprang up and wafted the odor of 
bay and jessamine past them on its wings. The 
grand triumphal sweep of nature's onward march 
recked nothing of life's little tragedies. 

When the first burst of his grief was over, 
Frank brought water from the branch, bathed 
Bena's face and hands and feet, and forced a few 
drops between her reluctant lips. He then pitched 
the cartload of tubs, buckets, and piggins out into 
the road, and gathering dried leaves and pine 
straw, spread them in the bottom of the cart. He 
stooped, lifted her frail form in his arms, and laid 
it on the leafy bed. Cutting a couple of hickory 
withes, he arched them over the cart, and gather- 
ing an armful of jessamine quickly wove it into 
an awning to protect her from the sun. She was 
quieter now, and seemed to fall asleep. 

" Go ter sleep, honey," he murmured caressingly, 
— " go ter sleep, an' Frank '11 take you home ter 
yo' mammy ! " 

Toward noon he was met by a young white man, 
who peered inquisitively into the canopied cart. 

" Hello ! " exclaimed the stranger, " who 've you 
got there ? " 

" A sick woman, suh." 



290 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

" Why, she 's white, as I 'm a sinner ! " he 
cried, after a closer inspection. " Look a-here, 
nigger, what are yon doin' with this white woman? " 

" She 's not w'ite, boss, — she 's a bright mu- 
latter." 

" Yas, mighty bright," continued the stranger 
suspiciously. " Where are you goin' with her ? " 

" I 'm takin' her ter Patesville, ter her mam- 
my." 

The stranger passed on. Toward evening Frank 
heard hounds baying in the distance. A fox, 
weary with running, brush drooping, crossed the 
road ahead of the cart. Presently, the hounds 
straggled across the road, followed by two or three 
hunters on horseback, who stopped at sight of the 
strangely canopied cart. They stared at the sick 
girl and demanded who she was. 

" I don't b'lieve she 's black at all," declared 
one, after Frank's brief explanation. " This nig- 
ger has a bad eye, — he's up ter some sort of 
devilment. What ails the girl ? " 

" 'Pears ter be some kind of a fever," replied 
Frank ; adding diplomatically, " I don't know 
whether it 's ketchin' er no — she 's be'n out er 
her head most er de time." 

They drew off a little at this. " I reckon it 's 
all right," said the chief spokesman. The hounds 
were baying clamorously in the distance. The 
hunters followed the sound and disappeared in the 
woods. 

Frank drove all day and all night, stopping only 



A MULE AND A CART 291 

for brief periods of rest and refreshment. At 
dawn, from the top of the long white hill, he 
sighted the river bridge below. At sunrise he 
rapped at Mis' Molly's door. 

Upon rising at dawn, Tryon's first step, after 
a hasty breakfast, was to turn back toward Clin- 
ton. He had wasted half a day in following the 
false scent on the Lillington road. It seemed, 
after reflection, unlikely that a woman seriously 
ill should have been able to walk any considera- 
ble distance before her strength gave out. In her 
delirium, too, she might have wandered in a wrong 
direction, imagining any road to lead to Patesville. 
It would be a good plan to drive back home, 
continuing his inquiries meantime, and ascertain 
whether or not she had been found by those who 
were seeking her, including many whom Tryon's 
inquiries had placed upon the alert. If she should 
prove still missing, he would resume the journey 
to Patesville and continue the search in that direc- 
tion. She had probably not wandered far from 
the highroad ; even in delirium she would be likely 
to avoid the deep woods, with which her illness 
was associated. 

He had retraced more than half the distance 
to Clinton when he overtook a covered wagon. 
The driver, when questioned, said that he had met 
a young negro with a mule, and a cart in which 
lay a young woman, white to all appearance, but 
claimed by the negro to be a colored girl who 



292 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

had been taken sick on the road, and whom he 
was conveying home to her mother at Patesville. 
From a further description of the cart Tryon re- 
cognized it as the one he had met the day before. 
The woman could be no other than Rena. He 
turned his mare and set out swiftly on the road to 
Patesville. 

If anything could have taken more complete 
possession of George Tryon at twenty-three than 
love successful and triumphant, it was love thwarted 
and denied. Never in the few brief delirious 
weeks of his courtship had he felt so strongly 
drawn to the beautiful sister of the popular lawyer, 
as he was now driven by an aching heart toward 
the same woman stripped of every adventitious 
advantage and placed, by custom, beyond the pale 
of marriage with men of his own race. Custom 
was tyranny. Love was the only law. Would 
God have made hearts to so yearn for one another 
if He had meant them to stay forever apart ? If 
this girl should die, it would be he who had killed 
her, by his cruelty, no less surely than if with 
his own hand he had struck her down. He had 
been so dazzled by his own superiority, so blinded 
by his own glory, that he had ruthlessly spurned 
and spoiled the image of God in this fair creature, 
whom he might have had for his own treasure, — 
whom, please God, he would yet have, at any cost, 
to love and cherish while they both should live. 
There were difficulties — they had seemed insuper- 
able, but love would surmount them. Sacrifices 



A MULE AND A CART 293 

must be made, but if the world without love would 
be nothing, then why not give up the world for 
love ? He would hasten to Pates ville. He would 
find her ; he would tell her that he loved her, that 
she was all the world to him, that he had come to 
marry her, and take her away where they might 
be happy together. He pictured to himself the 
joy that would light up her face ; he felt her soft 
arms around his neck, her tremulous kisses upon 
his lips. If she were ill, his love would woo her 
back to health, — if disappointment and sorrow 
had contributed to her illness, joy and gladness 
should lead to her recovery. 

He urged the mare forward ; if she would but 
keep up her present pace, he would reach Pates- 
ville by nightfall. 

Dr. Green had just gone down the garden path 
to his buggy at the gate. Mis' Molly came out to 
the back piazza, where Frank, weary and haggard, 
sat on the steps with Homer Pettifoot and Billy 
Oxendine, who, hearing of Rena's return, had 
come around after their day's work. 

"Rena wants to see you, Frank," said Mis' 
Molly, with a sob. 

He walked in softly, reverently, and stood by her 
bedside. She turned her gentle eyes upon him 
and put out her slender hand, which he took in his 
own broad palm. 

" Frank," she murmured, " my good friend — 
my best friend — you loved me best of them all." 



294 THE HOUSE BEHIND THE CEDARS 

The tears rolled untouched down his cheeks. 
" I 'd 'a' died, fer you, Miss Kena," he said bro- 
kenly. 

Mary B. threw open a window to make way for 
the passing spirit, and the red and golden glory 
of the setting Sim, triumphantly ending his daily 
course, flooded the narrow room with light. 

Between sunset and dark a traveler, seated in a 
dusty buggy drawn by a tired horse, crossed the 
long river bridge and drove up Front Street. 
Just as the buggy reached the gate in front of the 
house behind the cedars, a woman was tying a 
piece of crape upon the door-knob. Pale with 
apprehension, Tryon sat as if petrified, until a 
tall, side-whiskered mulatto came down the garden 
walk to the front gate. 

" Who 's dead ? " demanded Tryon hoarsely, 
scarcely recognizing his own voice. 

"A young cullud 'oman, suh," answered Ho- 
mer Pettifoot, touching his hat, " Mis' Molly 
Walden's daughter Rena." 



Electrotyped and printed by H. O. Houghton &> Co. 
Cambridge, Mass., U.S. A. 



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